By Rebecca Croomes
For The News Courier
On a clear Monday morning, men, women and children of different races and social backgrounds gathered on the Limestone County Courthouse steps to commemorate the life of a man who devoted his life to bringing people together — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
At 8:50 a.m., Limestone County NAACP President Wilbert Woodruff called the crowd to order. After a prayer, the Athens High School JROTC lined Washington Street and the rest of the assembly, including Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks, Limestone County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee, Probate Judge Charles Woodroof and Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Sisk, began singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”
They marched, singing around the Square once, then moved ¬on to the Athens Event Center across the street from the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives on Pryor Street.
“It went great,” said Woodruff.
Over the years, he said, the MLK Day celebration has outgrown the conference room at the Veterans Museum. With the construction of the event center, Woodruff said they have been able to host more people. The simple move has lead to increasing attendance over the years, which Woodruff said surprised him.
In a morning of big events, one of the highlights was the presentation of the winners of the annual essay contest.
“I was blown away by the essays,” Woodruff said.
The Round Island Baptist Church Men’s Chorus also performed. Altogether Woodruff said he felt the program was fitting to the memory of one of “the most noble Americans.”
“I thought it was very fitting and proper,” he said. “I was delighted at how things turned out.”
Through it all, Woodruff said he hoped the young people who wrote essays and the others who attended learned a lesson of tolerance, unity and love. A lesson he said was laid down by King, and demonstrated by both the adults marching in Athens and the man in Washington taking the oath of office.
The essay winners by category are 6-12-years-old: Jabia Warner, first place; Sydney Johnston, second; Jiirah Rogers, third. 13-15-years-old: Sullivan Johnston, first; Destiny Elliott, second; Sherretta Turner, third. 16-18-years-old: Reginald Battles, first; Myia Hamonds, second.