Springer, civil rights icon John Lewis named grand marshals of Houston MLK parade
Houston Astro George Springer and Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis will be the grand marshals of Houston’s Martin Luther King Day Parade.
The grand marshals and the route of this year’s parade were announced by Mayor Sylvester Turner, who noted last July that the 40-year-old tribute begun by the Black Heritage Society would become an official city event. The downtown parade will be Jan. 21 on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Lewis, of Georgia, marched with King and about 600 others through Selma, Alabama in 1965, after which he and others were attacked by white state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
At a Monday press conference, Turner said the parade will “unite people from different faiths and cultures” as a “new tradition in honor of (King’s) life and legacy.”
Turner and others also dedicated this year’s parade to Ovide Duncantell, the longtime Houston civil rights activist and founder of the Black Heritage Society. Duncantell died in November at 82.
“Ovide, this one is for you,” Turner said.
Duncatell began the society’s annual MLK parade in 1978, by some accounts the first such parade in the country.
Since 1995, a second group launched by a former Black Heritage Society volunteer has put on a competing parade and schedule of events known as the MLK Grande Parade.
The result was an annual competition as both groups jockeyed for parade permits and participants, as well as repeated accusations between the two groups’ founders that the other was profiteering on parade proceeds. The rancor and dueling events prompted repeated calls from civic leaders over the years for the two groups to unite for a single MLK parade.
Frustrated by the competing events that asked Houstonians to divide their time between two parades, Turner last year put the city’s backing behind the Black Heritage Society’s parade.