Charles Town march honors King's dream

January 20, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Marchers led by two children carrying an NAACP banner walked nearly a mile in freezing temperatures to honor slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

When the nearly 40 cold marchers arrived at Wainwright Baptist Church in Charles Town, Jefferson County ministers said they wanted to warm their insides with the fire of their speeches.

About 75 people attended the program, part of the 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Trail March, held at the Wainwright Baptist Church on South West Street Sunday.


About 30 marchers started at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Eagle Avenue and were joined by about 10 others as they passed the Zion Baptist Church. The weather was brisk with temperatures in the teens, but the skies were sunny.

The marchers were led by two children, Shavon Craig, 12, and Brielle Daley, 9, carrying a Jefferson County NAACP banner.

A West Virginia State Police trooper followed in his cruiser to protect the marchers from traffic on W.Va. 51.

When they arrived at the Wainwright Baptist Church, they were joined by others to listen to recorded excerpts from King's civil rights speeches.

George Rutherford, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said that the march is symbolic of King's life and beliefs.

Race relations between whites and blacks in Jefferson County are like those in other places, Rutherford said.

"You find some good, some bad," Rutherford said.

The local NAACP chapter has a large percentage of white members, he said. There also has been a lot of support from the local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Jefferson County, he said.

"Baha'is believes in the oneness of mankind," said Bill Gregg of Baha'is, who is white.

At Wainwright Baptist Church, the Rev. Walter Jackson said that those who walked in the cold should remember the hot weather that civil rights marchers experienced in the South during the 1960s.

Jackson said a lot of work needs to be done to make King's dream of a land of equality "a reality for our children and our children's children."

Jackson said he hopes people spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day thinking about how people can live together rather than just going to shops and sales.

"We've got bridges to build, differences to iron out so we may move on together," Jackson said.

The Rev. Ernest Lyles of Asbury United Methodist Church in Shepherdstown said he finds it sad that in Jefferson County, his oldest son only had two African-American teachers throughout the 12 years in school and may never have a black teacher while at Shepherd College.

He also said that it is sad that some of those in local law enforcement who took an oath to protect and serve all citizens feel comfortable in using racial slurs.

Lyles said more people need to stand up to urge the school board to hire more black teachers and not to tolerate police officers who use racial slurs.

Jackson said there are problems at the schools, not just from a lack of black teachers, but from black children who are not being made by their parents to do better in the classroom.

"I appeal to parents: Hold your children accountable," Jackson said.

Jackson said there also must be more done to stop the drug dealing in the black community, to end those who come into the area with their out-of-state tags on their vehicles to buy drugs.

"It's not just a black thing. It's not just a white thing. It's a people problem," Jackson said.

He said there's been too much divisiveness in Jefferson County, between the "good old boys" and the newcomers.

"We need to realize all of us live here," Jackson said. "We all have a stake in this community."

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