By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Preparations for the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Rose of Sharon Church, 500 N. Beech St., is well underway, and the parade to, and celebration at, the church keeps getting bigger and better each year.
This year the celebration will be held on Monday, Jan. 21, and will kick off with a parade from Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, 501 Weems St., to Rose of Sharon, where gospel music and “good old-time” preaching will take place to honor Dr. King. After the service, there will be dinner-on-the-grounds.
Said Etta Scott, event chairperson, “Dr. King was for nonviolence, and we are putting on a program with the theme of ‘Keep the Dream Alive,’ and with all the violence in our schools today and in our nation, we need to keep his dream of nonviolence alive more than ever.”
Added Scott, “The celebration is for all the county, all of Pearl River County, and we invite everyone, from all over the county, to attend these celebrations. It will lift your spirits and motivate you to be a better citizen and to take a stand on the issues we face in Pearl River County and the entire U.S. You can just walk in the parade to honor Dr. King’s memory, if that’s what you would like.”
Car dealer Dub Herring, affectionately known as “Paw Paw,” has been named the King of the festivities, and long-time Picayune educator, Sister Christine Frelix Doby, the Queen. Parade Grand Marshal is Elder David Simmons, Rose of Sharon pastor.
Herring, born in Grenada, was shining shoes and selling newspapers by the age of 9, and after serving in the Korean War, got into the car sales business. In 1978, he bought the Ford dealership in Picayune and developed it into one of the major dealerships in the South, and later got into the camper sales business, becoming also one of the top agencies in the South. He parleyed the saying, “That’s a Good Car, Paw Paw,” with his grandchildren kicking the tires, into a sales slogan recognizable all over the Gulf South.
His extensive work in charitable and Christian causes was recognized, too, and he was named Picayune’s Citizen of the Year in 1993, and “1999 Time Magazine/Goodyear Mississippi Dealer of the Year.”
Doby was born in Columbia and holds a B.S. from Alcorn and an M.S. from Michigan State. She taught at Carver High School from 1952 until 1970, when it closed, and then at Picayune junior and senior high schools to 1989. She has always been active in numerous civic and religious endeavors here. She’s been a member of Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church for over 50 years, and is a former head of the Retired Teachers Assoc. of Pearl River County.
Pastor Simmons holds a B.S. from USM and a masters in administration. He was born in New Orleans and his family moved to Picayune when he was very young. In 1983, the Lord called him into the ministry, and after serving a church in Laurel, came to Picayune’s Rose of Sharon. The church has undergone phenomenal growth under his leadership.
Under his ministry Rose of Sharon operates a Day Care ministry, offers jobs through a Family Resource Center, educational support via an after-school church program, and has offered pastoral and leadership throughout the community for over 30 years.
During last year’s celebration, Rose of Sharon Church was packed for the services, and a number of ministers from throughout the county called for a rededication to Dr. King’s principles, for which he gave his life.
Widely known and influential minister, the Rev. Jimmy Richardson, who in his testimony says the Lord saved him from drugs and made a family man and minister out of him, will be the keynote speaker. The Rev. Richardson is also head of the county NAACP chapter. Also speaking will be Pearl River County Board of Supervisors President J. Patrick Lee and State Probation Officer Ronald Dunstan.
“It will be a program you will not want to miss, and the gospel singing, too,” said Scott.
The day’s festivities will begin with a march and parade from Pleasant Valley to Rose of Sharon. Line-up for the parade will begin at 9 a.m. at Pleasant Valley.
In case of bad weather, everyone is asked to go directly to Rose of Sharon instead.
The bus from St. Matthews will be parked at Rose of Sharon at 8:30 a.m. for those wanting to park at Rose of Sharon and ride the bus to Pleasant Valley for the line-up.
“We are asking for full participation from all in the community to take part in the march and parade,” said Scott.
Scott asked those who want to participate to contact her at 601-798-2008, or Sister Ozie Turner at 601-798-3506, to get a free entry for a place in the line-up for the march and parade.
“We are also asking the community to please bring a non-perishable food item to Rose of Sharon so that a donation can be made to the feeding program,” she said. Besides Scott, Dorothy Brown is program director, and the MLK Day Committee is composed of Louise Atkins, Cordelia Kendricks, Johnnie Roberts, Ursula Spriggs, Turner and Wanda Williams.
King’s Day is a federal holiday. It is always held on the third Monday of January in close conjunction to his birthday on Jan. 15.
Historians say King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, in which he successfully protested against racial discrimination in federal and state law. His nonviolent approach was credited with changing the course of American history.
A push for a national holiday honoring King began shortly after his 1968 death in Memphis, where an assassins bullet killed him. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law as King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, stood by him.