SMDC employees remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 16, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Employees of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Redstone Arsenal headquarters paused to remember the legacy of America's most honored civil rights leader.
The ceremony, which coincides with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, took place at the Von Braun III auditorium Jan. 15.
"The observance of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is very important in today's society because it focuses a part of this country's history that is a reminder of the struggles and then gains made to overcome issues our society faced with equality for everyone regardless of their race, color, gender, nationality or station in life," said Sgt. 1st Class Reginald White, Equal Opportunity program manager. "It serves as a reminder that we all should continue to pursue 'The Dream' that Dr. King spoke about to live as brothers and sisters in our beloved communities."
The Alabama A&M Choir performed a medley of songs that received a standing ovation from those in attendance. The choir also sang, with the audience, the Negro National Anthem at the end of the ceremony.
The guest speaker, Herman "Buck" A. Watson Jr., practiced law for 52 years litigating civil, criminal and domestic relation matters. Watson grew up in Alabama during segregation and discussed with attendees some of his experiences with race matters during that time. He continues to serve the community as an advocate for the expansion and promotion of effective and economical civil and criminal legal services for the poor and disadvantaged citizens of Alabama.
Juanita Sales Lee, chief, General and Administrative Law Division, SMDC, introduced Watson as the guest speaker.
"To move the country and Alabama forward, and to realize Dr. King's dream, conversations on crucial issues, such as race relations, the effects of slavery, etc., are needed," Sales Lee said. "Buck is comfortable having this conversation and hopes you will carry on the conversation and act on the philosophy of love."
King, both a civil rights activist and a Baptist minister, has had a lasting effect on race relations in the United States. King is credited with ending legal segregation in the South and the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was 35 years old. In 1968, the then 39-year-old King, while standing on a balcony at a hotel in Memphis, Tenn., was shot and killed.
White talked about why it is important for the Army to observe King's birthday.
"Because of what Dr. King did and his philosophy, we should all be reminded that it takes self-involvement and sacrifice to be a change agent in race relations," White said. "It is important for the Army to observe Dr. King's birthday because it helps to reemphasize the diversity of the Army and how we operate as one unit in accomplishing our mission. We need to be an example to the rest of the country to show that racial inequality has no place in an efficient successful Army."
President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983, making the third Monday in January a legal federal holiday to honor King and his legacy.