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Area cities honor Martin Luther King

By Gheni_Platenburg
Jan. 15, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

Damien Jefferies, left, and Trevion Threadgill, both of Victoria, hold onto their horse, Diamond, whom Damien rode from his farm across the street to The Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The park is located at the intersection of Callis Street and Pleasant Green Drive. Formerly known as the Friendly Neighborhood Park, it was renamed on Jan. 18, 1988. Local officials and the Friendly Neighborhood Council worked to designate the name change, which was unveiled in conjunction with other Victoria observances of King's birthday.

Why do we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a U.S. federal holiday that celebrates the life and achievements of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., an important Civil Rights Movement activist and chief spokesman for nonviolent activism.

He is most well-known for being the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, his well-known "I Have A Dream" speech and his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.

The holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

In 1968, shortly after King's assassination, a campaign was started to create a holiday honoring him around the time of his birthday on Jan. 15.

After the first bill was introduced, trade unions lead the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976. Following support from the musician Stevie Wonder with his single "Happy Birthday" and a petition with 6 million signatures,

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in 1983.

Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, but it was not observed in all states until 2000.

At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays such as Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, Human Rights Day in Idaho and Robert E. Lee's birthday in other states.

Martin Luther King Day is a relatively new federal holiday, hence there are few long standing traditions.

It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans.

Some schools mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about King's work and the struggle against racial segregation and racism.

In recent years, federal legislation has encouraged Americans to volunteer in citizen action groups as part of the MLK Day of Service.

Seven locations in the Crossroads have been renamed after the civil rights leader.

VICTORIA COUNTY

Victoria - Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building

The Victoria General Services Administration federal building was renamed after King on April, 25, 1993.

The building, 312 S. Main St., houses a post office, a federal courthouse, Internal Revenue Service, among other services.

The renaming of the federal building made Victoria the third city in the nation behind Newark, N.J., and Atlanta to name its federal building after the slain civil rights leader.

The process to rename the building began in 1991 when former Victoria councilman Jim Wyatt organized a 15-member committee to push for the name change.

Wyatt's committee drafted a resolution which was passed unanimously by the Victoria City Council and the Victoria County Commissioner's Court in August 1992.

The matter was soon brought to the attention of then U.S. Congressman Greg Laughlin, D-West Columbia and the House committee on Public Works and Transportation.

The result was the passage of House Bill 5831 by the 102nd Congress and signed by former U.S. President George Bush.

Martin Luther King III dedicated the building named after his father.

Victoria - Martin Luther King Jr. Park

The Martin Luther King Jr. Park is located at the intersection of Callis Street and Pleasant Green Drive.

Formerly known as the Friendly Neighborhood Park, it was renamed on Jan. 18, 1988.

Local officials and the Friendly Neighborhood Council worked to designate the name change, which was unveiled in conjunction with other Victoria observances for King's birthday.

JACKSON COUNTY

Edna - The Martin Luther King/Lorrian Jones Children's Park

The Martin Luther King Children's Park opened in spring 2007.

Located at 1125 Martin Luther King Drive, across from the historical Carver School, the three-acre park features two play areas, swings, a merry-go-round, jungle gyms, benches, a covered pavilion, barbecue pits, a walking track.

The park committee and former Edna councilman Lorrian Yang Jones were the driving forces behind the park. In 2010, the committee added Jones' name to the park's name.

Edna - Martin Luther King Drive

The Edna city council approved renaming one of their Eastside streets Martin Luther King Drive in the 1980's. Jones was the driving force behind the name change. Sites along the street include the children's park, George Washington Carver School, which served as the high school for blacks in Jackson County before desegregation.

MATAGORDA COUNTY

Bay City - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

On Jan. 17, 2011 Bay City got its first tribute to King -a roadway named in his honor.

The new street sign is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 60 and Second Street, now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

Beginning in the mid 1990's, residents and council members attempted three times to rename a street in King's honor.

Richard Knapik, former mayor, Booker Holbert, former Bay City councilman, and the Rev. James Roberson are credited with handling the legal work and getting people to sign the petition to change the name.

Van Vleck - Martin Luther King Avenue

The naming of Martin Luther King Avenue in Van Vleck took place in the mid 1990's.

Mike Pruett, former Matagorda County Commissioner Precinct No. 1, along with resident Isaiah King worked to get the nearly mile-long roadway's name changed.

CALHOUN COUNTY

Port Lavaca - West Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

On March, 8, 1999, the Port Lavaca city council adopted an ordinance renaming Cypress Street after King. Port Lavaca councilman Floyd Felder was the driving force behind the street's name change. Today, the street runs through a subdivision .

• Sources: The Library of Congress; Victoria Advocate; Matagorda Advocate; Jackson County Herald-Tribune; Edna Mayor Joe Hermes; Edna city council member William L. Selders; City of Port Lavaca city council meeting minutes; and Mike Pruett, former Matagorda County Commissioner Precinct No. 1.

The following websites were also used:

• Timeanddate.com

• mlkday.gov

• cityofedna.com

• whitehouse.gov

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