MLK Presentation in Tyler 2013: Fred McClure, Keynote Speaker,
Reported by J.D. Meyer
Tyler celebrated the 27th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Community Program at the Immaculate Conception Catholic cathedral. The event is sponsored by the Tyler Together Race Relations Forum (TTRRF). The invocation by Max Lafser of Tyler Unity included a Bible verse that indicated where we’ve been in the past doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the future. The local unit of the Korean War veterans presented the colors. The whole audience sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and the lyrics were provided in the program. Father Anthony McLaughlin did the welcome. He noted that racism is an inherent evil–meaning it’s everywhere–and the Catholic Church is determined to work against racism. Mayor Barbara Bass was the next speaker, and she shared her reflections on Dr. King. Mayor Bass observed that Dr. King “lived his faith every day.” God called MLK for a special purpose even if it meant risking his life. The movement has grown beyond the borders of the US. The mayor concluded by asking us to grow each day as a community.
Jeff Williams of Exclusivity Marketing delivered the “Occasion for Gathering.” First, Mr. Williams thanked the crowd for coming to the event because MLK Day is a holiday, and we could have gone anywhere or stayed home. He noted that we live in a time of more division than unity. There can be resistance to changing the status quo whether it was the Civil War, women’s vote, or the Civil Rights Movement. You can see further when you’re higher in the elevator. Mr. Williams reflected that Lyndon B. Johnson knew how to get things done. When LBJ met MLK, Blacks were routinely denied the right to vote but paid taxes and died in war. MLK told LBJ, “There’s always the right time to do the right thing.” LBJ asked Dr. King to help him put enough pressure to do the right thing. Mr. Williams reminded us that both Johnson and King were southerners. Johnson was from Texas, and King was from Georgia. As a member of Tyler Together, Mr. Williams wants to know your perspective, what matters to you, and to meet you, so TTRRF can help build a better community. He proclaimed that we can’t afford to lose brain power in the community.
Steve Russell of Empowering Texas Youth introduced the keynote speaker, Fred McClure. They have been friends since high school through belonging to Future Farmers of America (FFA) in neighboring cities. Fred McClure graduated from Nacogdoches High School where he also played football and was a pianist for the band. Mr. McClure earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M in 1976 where he became that university’s first African-American student body president. I should add that Texas A&M had fewer than 5% Black enrollment in that era. On the other hand, agricultural economics was Texas A&M’s most popular major back then. After getting a law degree from Baylor, McClure became an advisor to President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, and Texas Senator John Tower. Mr. McClure became a member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents in 1995 and later joined the board of directors for the 12th Man Foundation. Now Mr. McClure is the director of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation at Texas A&M http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/.