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Community remembers legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Jennifer Peryam - jperyam@h-ponline.com

Huntington University hosts community forum

While Monday marks the day we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan Williams gets a little reminder every day.

Williams, director at the Youth Services Bureau of Huntington and Huntington Prevention Task Force member, has a photo of King hanging in her office.The black-and-white photo has special meaning to Williams since her father, Bale Smitley, appears in the photo along with King.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man and my dad thought the world of him. He stood for integrity and equality and had a way of bringing his views so people could talk on an even basis,” Williams said.

Smitley, who served on the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department, owned his own security guard company, Safeguard Service. He was subcontracted to provide extra security at Manchester College when King visited the campus in 1967 as part of a leadership conference.

Two other men appear in the photo with King and Smitley. Andrew Young was a lieutenant with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Blair Helman, former Manchester College president, is included in the photograph as well.

King was assassinated in Memphis a year later after a lifetime dedicated to civil rights activism and nonviolent social change.

The Rev. Arthur Wilson, Huntington University dean of spiritual life, said that Monday is a day to honor King’s legacy and work. He noted that it is a good thing for the younger generations to hear the message from King that still speaks today and has relevance.

Toward that end, HU will host a community forum Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the university’s Zurcher Auditorium.

The forum will include prayer, scripture readings, music, spoken word and remarks from Rev. Wilson.

“We will hear remarks from a recording from Dr. King and interviews he gave in 1968,” Wilson said.

He said it is a chance to revist the past.

“We hope to take people back through our music and slide shows. It won’t be the traditional service where there will be a keynote speaker,” Wilson said.

Russ Degitz, principal of Huntington North High School, said that they do not have a school-wide convocation planned this year.

“We will be honoring Dr. King through a special announcement that day, as well as promoting our teachers to honor him through classroom activities and instruction. This has worked well in previous years as students can have a smaller group and more intimate experience related to his impact on our society,” Degitz said.

The Huntington County Courthouse will be closed on Monday. There will be no postal delivery.

City offices and schools will remain open.