Marchers note King’s legacy, vow to continue work

mstucka@macon.comJanuary 20, 2014 

A longtime Warner Robins activist, Ada Lee, said Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday celebration honors the most important time in her life.

“We had somebody to push us to take it and to grab it,” said Lee, 89, one of the founding members of a Houston County chapter of the NAACP. “We have come a long way, but certainly we have a long way to go. I see prejudice, discrimination, still hanging there. We certainly have a long way to go.”

As hundreds marched Monday in Middle Georgia to remember King’s legacy, that theme of progress and work remaining was often repeated.

“We marched because Martin marched, ... because Martin marched for freedom,” preached the Rev. Richard Gammage in a Macon ceremony before hundreds of people who’d marched from the north, south, east and west. “We now have a taste of it, but the best is yet to come.”

In Warner Robins, Al Woods, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, said many people took Monday off altogether as a holiday, while King would have wanted whites and blacks and Hispanics and “everybody to recognize we’re all one, and to come together,” Woods said outside Warner Robins CME Church, where that city’s march ended and perhaps 200 people gathered.

Que Jacobs looked for her children in the march.

“I bring my kids, so my kids can get a feel for that heritage and how it feels. It’s about knowing where we’ve come from, and how we’ve grown,” said Jacobs, whose son, 13-year-old Darrin, is a big history buff.

Some of that history was close at hand. Lee’s niece, Annie Abrams, said she integrated the cafeteria at Houston Medical Center about a month after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. She had been sterilizing equipment in the hospital, but blacks had to eat in a separate room in the basement. She went first alone, then with a friend.

“We were afraid, but we sat there and tried to enjoy,” she recalled. Abrams said she was soon fired for what the hospital called her attitude, which pushed her into nursing school and helped her launch a career that, ironically, came back to a position at the hospital that paid better than the $63 every two weeks she’d been making.

In Macon, between the former Macon City Hall and Rosa Parks Square, E.T. Stanley said he’d just retired. The work of King and the civil rights movement made it possible for him to get a good job, that allowed him to save enough to actually retire.

Not far away, Doris Etheridge pondered how the nation came from separate drinking fountains to where she now has a granddaughter being successful in college. “It has been a change and I am thankful,” she said. “He brought us a long way, and I’m grateful for that.”

Robert Curry Jr. of Macon recalls seeing King marching past his neighborhood from Wesleyan College when Curry was a child. King’s lesson has never been lost, he said, though the work continues.

“The journey, the dream, the will is a way of life for me. I stand to help in any way I can to bring the dream,” said Curry, a retired F-15 mechanic. He said he used to look up to older civil rights activists when he was young, and now hopes today’s children can look to him and others as they finish the work.

“The journey is long, and the road is hard,” he said.

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