The beautiful weather Monday brought a large turnout for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Sevierville.
Joined by local elected officials, about 100 people marched through downtown Sevierville then attended the “I Have a Dream Commemoration” at the First Baptist Church in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
The program began with video presentation featuring imagery from the civil rights movement set to an audio recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Judge Dwight Stokes, chairman of the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee, welcomed speakers at the event, including Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters, City of Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley, State Senator Doug Overbey, and State Representatives Dale Carr and Andrew Farmer.
Robert J. Booker, a civil rights activist, former executive director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and author of several books, gave the keynote address where he spoke of meeting Martin Luther King Jr. and the history of the civil rights movement.
“Dr. King would not be pleased with the lawlessness in Ferguson, Mo.,” Booker said. “He would be appalled of the murders of the two police officers in New York City. He would be deeply saddened that 115 policemen were killed in the line of duty this past year.”
Booker said that Dr. King spelled it out in the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August, 28, 1963 when he said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
The Martin Luther King Community Choir and Sevier County High School Combined Choirs performed, with one number accompanied by an interpretive dance from the Elizabeth Williams School of Dance.
Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards were presented, as well as awards for Sevier County Student Martin Luther King Jr. Essay & Poster contest winners.