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Local History

Martin Luther King Service

Public Service Slated Sunday to Show That We Care
April 6, 1968

"Tribute to slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., continued to know no color or creed lines today as Springfieldians established a King's Family Foundation Fund and completed plans for an interracial and interdenominational mass pubic memorial service Sunday.

"The Springfield chapter of the NAACP officially set up the foundation, to aid Dr. King's family, at a meeting last night, according to the Rev. William Pitts, president of the group. The NAACP also drafted a resolution on Dr. King's death. Offerings at the memorial service will go to the foundation. The service, to be held at First Baptist Church, 525 South Avenue, was planned after a meeting of laymen and ministers of several denominations Friday afternoon.

"'Many white people have been asking me "what can we do?" explained the Rev. Dorsey Levell, pastor of Brentwood United Methodist Church and executive director of the Springfield Council of Churches.

"'This is what we can do – go to this meeting and show that we care, show the world that we care about this tragic event,' Mr. Levell continued.

"He added that the meeting will be held in accordance with President Johnson's proclamation of Sunday as a national day of prayer in memory of Dr. King. The service will feature four speakers, Mr. Pitts, Harold Person, chairman of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights, Anderson McCullough, instructor of English at Southwest Missouri State College and Mary Carl Stillwell.

"Mr. Pitts, who personally knew Dr. King, will speak on 'A Personal Acquaintance,' and Person, who attended the civil rights march on Washington led by Dr. King, will discuss 'Witnessing the Man in Action.'

"Others participating in the program will be the Rev. Hugh Jones, president of the Council of Churches, Msgr. John Westhues, president of the Springfield ministerial Alliance, and the Rev. J. D. Edwards, Sr., pastor of Pitts Chapel Methodist Church. John B. Hughes, a teacher at Reed Junior High and grand master of the Masonic Lodge in Missouri, will deliver a closing challenge to the group and Rabbi Ernest I. Jacob will give the benediction...

"At yesterday's memorial service at Southwest Missouri State College(SMS), more than 1500 students and faculty members gathered on the lawn to hear talks by Anderson McCullough, Dean Duane Meyer and faculty members H. Ren Kent and Dr. Jack Gibson. Also speaking were Curtis Perry and Willie Jenkins, SMS students and well known athletes, and Rich Anderson, SMS student body president…

In the photo above left, published in the Daily News, officers of the Springfield chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, discuss plans for a memorial service for slain civil rights workers June 13, 1967. From left to right are Mrs. Chester Shipps, NAACP program chairman; Mrs. Eugene Billings, secretary; The Rev. William Pitts, president; and Harold Patterson II, vice-president of the youth council of the NAACP. Above right, SMS students and faculty march around the quadrangle in the memory of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, published in the Daily News April 6, 1968.

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