Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day events slated for Jan. 20

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 12:51 AM

 A full slate of activities are scheduled for Sevier County’s ninth annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 20 after a week of events lead up to the day set aside for the slain civil rights leader.

“I’ve always thought the Martin Luther King, Jr. was a very important person in American history,”  General Sessions Court Judge Dwight Stokes, who serves as the chairman of the Sevier County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Committee, said. “The role he served was an incredible and important role in regards to civil rights. There were so many problems in our country in regards to race, and it needed to be addressed. I have a great appreciation for all that King accomplished.”

The local celebration began in 2006, when Joseph McMahan launched the effort after witnessing the celebration of King in neighboring Jefferson County.

“The minority community had talked about the fact that surrounding communities were doing something for the MLK holiday and Sevier County wasn’t,” Jamesena Miller, who serves on the local committee, said. “Joe would go to the surrounding communities to their events, specifically Jefferson City. Then he thought, why should we travel outside of the county when we could have our own?

“He was in Leadership Sevier that year and they were talking about quality of life, so he went to (County Mayor) Larry Waters, and (Waters) accepted the recommendation, and it kind of got the ball rolling,” Miller said. 

“Joe solicited some people — Jamesena and Alverrene (Bridgeforth) being two of them — to be involved,” Sevier County Historian Carroll McMahan, who’s also on the committee, remembered. “And it was very successful.

“Before the next year Joe had some serious medical problems, and Jamesena took the reigns,” McMahan continued.

“And she asked Judge Stokes to do the address at the second event. He did ... and he came on the committee at that time.”

Though McMahan died in 2010 following a difficult battle with a brain tumor, his vision of Sevier County’s celebration of King has lived on.

“The ones of us that he’d tabbed to help that first year, we kind kept it going,” Miller said.

“I think the importance (of continuing the annual celebration) is for the legacy of the children that are now in schools that are integrated — they can go to school wehere they want go eat where they want, and it wasn’t always like that,” she said.

“(Martin Luther King Jr. Day) reminds them that the dream came alive under MLK, and what happened in that era, because it’s so easy to forget.

(The celebration) is a tribute to the folks that paved the way and way to remind that you need to continue to work for relationships with the folks that are different than you ... continuing the dream.”

Cecil C. Mills, Jr. is slated for the next Monday’s keynote address.

He is the senior pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church of Greeneville, Tenn., where he also serves as the First Assistant for the Third Judicial District Attorney General’s office, where he’s been an assistant district attorney since 1984.

Mills received a B.A. Degree from Carson Newman College in Jefferson City before earning his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville.

He currently serves as vice chairman of the AHERN newsmagazine board of directors as well as on advisory committee for the Criminal Justice Program at the Greeneville Greene County Center for Technology and Omni Visions Incorporated in Greeneville.

He’s also served as president of the congress of the Bethel District Baptist Missionary and Educational Association.

The schedule of events surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Sevier County are as follows:

Monday, Jan. 13

Seymour Branch Library — MLK reading at children’s story time, 11 a.m., Alverrene Bridgeforth

Wednesday, Jan. 15 

King Family Library — MLK reading at children’s story time, 10:30 a.m., Judge Dwight Stokes

Boyds Creek Church of God — MLK commemoration, film, guest speaker Judge Stokes

Friday, Jan. 17

Kodak Branch Library — MLK reading at children’s story time, 11 a.m., Robin Cogdill

Monday, Jan. 20

“I Have A Dream Commemoration” A Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

10 a.m. — Convene at Sevierville First Baptist Church parking lot; Prayer by Bishop Zack Flack, Boyds Creek Church of God; refreshments provided by Food City and Starbucks

10:30 a.m. — March to courthouse plaza and return to First Baptist Church

11:15 a.m. — Celebration program opens with “I Have a Dream” speech in First Baptist Church santuary

11:20 a.m. — National anthem by Sevier County High School Concert Choir and MLK Community Choir; “Lift Every Voice,” Negro National Anthem, by Regina Pate; musical selection from community and SCHS Concert Choir, “Lord I Life Your Name on High;” opening remarks by Judge Dwight Stokes; welcome from Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley; scripture and prayer from Rev. Dan Spencer of First Baptist Church Sevierville

11:45 a.m. — Musical expression in dance from Boyds Creek Church of God, “You Are Everything”

11:55 a.m. — Introduction of keynote speaker by Judge Dwight Stokes

Noon — Keynote address by Rev. Cecil Mills, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Greeneville, Tenn., assistant district attorney general, Greene County, Tenn.

12:20 p.m. — Musical selections by Sevier County High School Concert Choir, “Will You Be There” and “I Know Where I’m Going”

12:30 p.m. — Reflections with Isaac McMahan and Drake Dudley “How MLK Impacted My Life”

12:50 p.m. — Awards and recognition of Sevier County student essay and poster contest winners; MLK 2013 Leadership Award presentation

1 p.m. — Praise dance team selection, Gum Stand Baptist Church, “Take Me to the King”

1:10 p.m. — Congregational musical finale, “We Shall Overcome” by MLK Choir and audience; “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by MLK Choir

1:20 p.m. — Closing remarks from Judge Dwight Stokes, chair of the MLK Celebration Committee

1:30 p.m.  Benediction from evangelist Wanda Manis, Boyds Creek Church of God