On Monday afternoon, men, women and children gathered outside the Ellis County Courthouse to march from the downtown square to New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church as a tribute to the life of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Before setting out on foot, Broderick Sargent welcomed those in attendance and then introduced several people who each addressed the group.

Dr. Shane Kinnison, pastor of First Baptist Church, led the group in a prayer as they stood on the sidewalk and bowed their heads, some holding umbrellas and all bundled up to battle the cold weather.

Kinnison’s words were followed by those from Waxahachie Mayor Joe Jenkins and City Manager Paul Stevens.

“Dr. King was certainly a person of vision, courage and persistence… one of our greatest Americans,” Jenkins said.

“He was a man of peace and reconciliation and a great teacher,” Stevens said, pointing out that parents can be great teachers, too. Stevens recalled that when his classmates in grade school teased other children because of the color of their skin, he was advised by his mother to “stand up and speak against it.” The simple words of his parents “set a foundation for me,” Stevens said, saying his hope is that more parents would do the same.

Waldo de Cuir urged all to make a difference with acts of kindness to one another, with city council member Ron Wilkinson stressing the importance that each person remember the sacrifice King made.

“I had the rare opportunity of meeting Dr. King when I was a law student at SMU,” said Wilkinson, noting he was very impressed with King.

He spoke of how young King was at the time the two met – and how young King was when he was assassinated shortly thereafter.

“Some have given. Some have sacrificed. But Dr. King gave it all,” Wilkinson said. “Let us remember the sacrifice.”

Also speaking at the courthouse gathering were Constable Pct. 3 Jimmie Ray and Rodney Ramsey.

Led by a fire engine and trailed by police cars, the group set out east on Main Street to Wyatt Street and then north on Wyatt Street to Greater New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Eggar Street, where a special program was presented by several churches, including Greater New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Waxahachie, Emmanuel Upper Room Church of God in Christ of Reagor Springs, Joshua Chapel AME Church of Waxahachie and others.

Once again, Sargent took the role of introducing each person and group involved with the program.

Alfred Mims led those in attendance in the singing of “We Shall Overcome” at the beginning of the program and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at its closing, with other music throughout the evening, accompanied by organist Tyron Davis Sr.

Virgil Black opened the program by leading the group in prayer.

Many youth participated in the program, as well, including Bethany Sargent, who read a poem by Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise,” and Sidney Hall, who gave a solo on her bass clarinet, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Bishop Robert Davis gave the main address, describing King as one of the greatest Americans in history.

“If we forget where we come from, the blood that was shed, then we will lose the importance,” said Davis, noting the importance of “continuing to tell our children where we came from.”

Davis noted that many have sacrificed whose names aren’t in the history books.

“I appreciate those that paid the price so that we can enjoy these freedoms,” Davis said, urging those in attendance to not give into discouragement. “Dr. King didn’t let discouragement … or the naysayers … stop him.”

“I hope we all learn to love each other,” said Don Edwards, who also spoke to the group before singing a solo.

Council member Chuck Beatty shared with the group, saying he asks himself, “Chuck, what are you doing to keep the dream alive?” The theme of Beatty’s brief address was “We All Live Together in the World House.”

The final speaker was Sargent, who spoke of the many changes taking place in Waxahachie and in the world before closing the celebration by leading a group prayer.

“But as we keep our focus and attention on the blood that was shed for us on Calvary by Jesus Christ nothing else really matters except that we make a difference in the lives of those we touch,” Sargent said, saying, “We must embrace the beauty of diversity.”

The special Martin Luther King Jr. Day program also included performances by the choir from Emmanuel Upper Room Church of God in Christ and the praise team from Joshua Chapel AME Church, which performed two praise dances to music.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com.