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Kansas Town Honors Gordon Parks

October 11, 2004

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) _ Gordon Parks, the poet and composer, filmmaker and photographer, wasn’t able to sit with whites when he was growing up here. The town has made it up to him in a big way with a four-day celebration of his life.

In the downtown theater where, as a boy, Parks had to sit in the balcony with other blacks, he ate dinner Saturday next to the governor of Kansas. Down front.

``Gordon, welcome to the front row,″ Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told Parks to the applause of about 350 people at the Liberty Theater.

The banquet was the culmination of the town’s first Gordon Parks Celebration of Culture and Diversity.

More than 200 people attended four days of lectures, panel discussions, movie screenings and reminiscing. The crowd included about a dozen members of Parks’ family who had come from several states and presented a bronze bust of him to the town’s Mercy Health Center.

``I have a strange feeling back here,″ Parks said at the presentation. ``I can’t explain it. It’s a strange mixture of the tragedies and the good things that happened here.″

It was Parks’ first visit to his hometown in more than 20 years.

The 91-year-old Parks, still recovering from a hernia operation less than a month ago, defied doctors’ orders to attend the four-day celebration. When he was told what the town was planning, he told family and friends: ``I want to go home. They’re waiting for me there.″

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