Lynchburg Leaders Host Call to Unity to Honor MLK Anniversary

Lynchburg, VA - 50 years ago Martin Luther King Junior marched on Washington D.C. and gave his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech. That moment was commemorated in Lynchburg in a call to unity ceremony Wednesday.

The event was hosted by some local power houses of the civil rights movement. Many of the men and women who helped de-segregate Lynchburg, and marched with King 50 years ago.

Wednesday they shared their stories from that day, many mindful that the work they started decades ago, must continue.

Inside Lynchburg's Providence Place Church, songs and stories harken back to a time 50 years ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington to give the most profound speech of the civil rights movement.

"He said he had a dream" recited Dr. Garnell Stamps, who marched with King in 1963.

"He said that we shall overcome" said Stamps.

As did Willard Bailey, "That's one of the experiences that you just can't forget; the day I spent in Washington in 1963, hearing all of those great speakers, Martin Luther King was just running away with the show."

Several others who played a part in Lynchburg's movement shared their stories.

But the message for this audience, from these men and women, was that the job is far from over.

"And I thought that we had come a long ways, until the last council meeting" said Joan Foster, Lynchburg's Former Mayor.

Foster was referring to a recent statement made by city councilman H Cary.

"Whites in the morning blacks in the evening in large part. That's unfortunate" said Cary during a City Council work session earlier this month.

"There isn't a certain time of day in any place in Lynchburg that some people go, and then there's another time of day that the other segments of our population go" said Foster.

A night of stories, celebration and songs; with the message that even 50 years later, there's still work left to be done.

"But I declare to you this day, that none of those problems are insurmountable" said Carl Hutcherson, Lynchburg's former Mayor.

Dr. Garnell Stamps presented Frances Thornhill, wife of M.W. Thornhill, the first African American Mayor of Lynchburg, with the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award for efforts to end discrimination in the Hill City.