Speaker pays tribute to slain spiritual leader

January 13, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION


Shouting messages in a way very similar to Martin Luther King Jr., a Charles Town, W.Va., native who went on to blaze his own trail as a black man spoke Sunday night at an event to pay tribute to King.

The Rev. Donald F. Taylor Sr. was the youngest of 16 children and was born in Charles Town.

At the beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet Sunday at the Holiday Inn on Foxcroft Avenue, event spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown said she discovered that Taylor dropped out of school in ninth grade.

But Taylor later obtained his GED, a shining example of having a dream and obtaining it, Brown said.

Taylor went on to obtain a bachelor of arts degree from Shepherd College, now Shepherd University, and also earned master's degrees from Villanova University and Virginia Union University, as well as a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.


Taylor has traveled extensively in the world and during his work in the Chesapeake, Va., area, he was twice elected to the Chesapeake General Hospital Authority, the first and only black to achieve that honor, according to a background sheet.

His voice booming through a banquet hall at the Holiday Inn, Taylor spoke with enthusiasm as he talked about progress in equality, illustrated by events like Barack Obama's bid for the U.S. presidency.

Then he talked about dark moments, like the time he traveled to Africa and toured a castle where slaves were once held before being taken by ship from their country.

In the top of a room in the castle was a small window that the slaves had to depend on for light, Taylor said. At one end of the room was an opening, which was the "door of no return" that slaves would pass through to be taken from their country, Taylor said.

"I could even hear the clanging of the shackles. The stench was horrible," Taylor said.

Taylor said he had a driver taking him around the area, but after witnessing the inside of the facility, he did not want to do anything else that day.

"Just leave me alone," Taylor recalled telling his driver. "I began to weep. I cried uncontrollably thinking about man's inhumanity to man."

The scholarship banquet, in its 30th year, raises money for scholarships for area youth. Tickets cost $35 and almost 300 were sold, Brown said.

Six students received scholarships in varying amounts in the most recent funding awards from the organization, Brown said.

Taylor recalled the days when blacks were separated from whites in everyday life. He remembered growing up in Charles Town and peeking in a window in a restaurant where white people ate.

Taylor said the rights that King stood for now allow him to be a free man.

"You all see me? Here I am, an African-American and proud of it. There was a time when I couldn't even wash dishes here," said Taylor, referring to the Holiday Inn.

Referring to equality, Taylor said, "We are not there yet, but we are getting there. Go Obama," Taylor said, generating applause from the audience.

Taylor said what he worries about now is the "enemy within" that affects blacks. Some black families are disintegrating, leaving mothers to hold down several jobs while kids are out in the streets smoking dope and drinking, Taylor said.

People need to do more than sing about hope, they need to go out and attack problems, Taylor said.

The Herald-Mail Articles