Kingstree celebrates 50th Anniversary of MLK's Mother's Day Speech

VIDEO: Kingstree celebrates 50th Anniversary of MLK's Mother's Day Speech

KINGSTREE, SC (WCSC) - On Mother's Day 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his March on Ballot Boxes Speech in Kingstree.

On Sunday there was a celebration to honor that historic speech. Many people attended who listened to Dr. King's speech in person. That speech was the first of three that  he delivered in South Carolina.

Kingstree native, WC Henryhand was a 7th grade band member at the time.

"We were right next to the stage, and we were right to the right of him," Henryhand said. "When that time came I shot up and shook Dr. King's hand."

Henryhand along with others could spot themselves in the speech video. Back then about 5,000 people gathered on the Tomlinson High School athletic field while

Dr. King encouraged people to vote as a way of pursuing social and economic justice.

One of the organizers of the event is Cassandra Williams-Rush. She was active in the civil rights movement in Kingstree at a young age.

"People were not registered and did not realize the importance of being registered to vote and not understanding the whole political process," she said.  "This was a big movement at that time.

She was a teenager in high school when Dr. King visited.

"I was just really excited and then too we had a march that day, we marched with Dr. King," Williams-Rush said.

Congressman Jim Clyburn was there that day too.

"He came here to help launch a political movement," Clyburn said of Dr. King.

The youngest black elected official in the U.S  Rep. Barkari  Sellers was the keynote speaker. He was elected in 2006 to the South Carolina House of Representatives and he's also a CNN Commentator.

There was also a historical marker unveiling a permanent fixture for an unforgettable day.

"This thing means more to me now [than] back then 50 years ago," said Henryhand. "I was in the seventh grade, so I didn't have the mentality I have now about voting."

Ann McGill was the mistress of ceremony for the event.

Organizers say members from the Williamsburg County Youth Leadership Group will host another event in 50 years to commemorate the speech on its 100th year anniversary.

Williams Rush says Dr. King came to Kingstree because of the persistence of Virgil Dimery. At the time he was running to become a state Senator. He went to Atlanta to convince Dr. King to come out, and after three days Dr. King decided to come.

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