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Fort Worth celebrates new MLK Heritage Trails Marker

Posted Jan. 23, 2019

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The Reverend stands by the marker
The Rev. Kyev Tatum shows the marker unveiled in downtown Fort Worth to honor Martin Luther King's 1959 visit to the city.

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Visit Fort Worth and the MLK on Main Street Collaborative celebrated a new marker installed Jan. 21 to commemorate Martin Luther King’s only visit in 1959 to Fort Worth.

The marker is part of the Heritage Trails walking tour in downtown with 26 free-standing bronze markers depicting the people, places and events that shaped Fort Worth’s history. The MLK marker is located in General Worth Square at the corner of Ninth and Main streets, between the Fort Worth Convention Center and the John F. Kennedy Tribute.

Special guests were Gary and Anne Lacefield, marker sponsors; and the Rev. K.P. Tatum, Fort Worth pastor and community activist. Gary Lacefield is director of the Institute for Mediation, Arbitration, Strategic Studies and Forensics at Tarleton State University. The TCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble performed at the marker ceremony, prior to the annual MLK Day parade downtown.

“With the unveiling of the new MLK Heritage Trail Marker, Fort Worth will become the first city in the nation to honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Main Street,” Tatum said.

“Remembering our history encourages us to look at our progress with thanksgiving, but challenges us to never take our eyes off the mountaintop, as Dr. King said, especially as our city moves forward with race and culture discussions to examine how we can continually improve Fort Worth with the vision of being the most inviting and prosperous city for all,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber.

King was invited to Fort Worth by the late Vada Felder, a local activist and first African-American to graduate from Brite College of the Bible. Felder befriended King at a church meeting in Nashville and invited him to deliver a sermon in Fort Worth later that year.

King spoke at the Majestic Theater at 1101 Commerce St. On that occasion, the theater was integrated when African-Americans were, for the first time, allowed to enter through the front door and sit in the lower seats.

Text on the marker

“A Great Time To Be Alive” On October 22, 1959, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pastor, civil rights leader and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made his only visit to Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Vada Phillips Felder, local educator, activist, and friend of Dr. King’s had invited him to Fort Worth when they both attended a church conference in Nashville. Upon his arrival, Dr. King was greeted by African American community leaders. He also experienced some anger, hate and bomb threats. He stayed upstairs in Vada Felder’s home on Stewart Street, and attended a reception at the Bellaire Drive West home of the Revs. Alberta and Harold Lunger, Professor of Social Ethics, Brite College of the Bible (now Brite Divinity School) at Texas Christian University. That evening four hundred people were in attendance when Dr. King spoke at the historic Majestic Theater at 1101 Commerce Street. On that occasion the theater was integrated when African Americans were, for the first time, allowed to enter through the front door and sit in the lower seats.

In 1954 Vada Felder was the first African American to graduate from Brite College of the Bible with a Masters of Religious Education. She was a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church for over 50 years, authored Christian Education materials, founded and operated United Christian Leadership School, and taught in Fort Worth’s James Guinn Elementary School and at Bishop College. She said that Dr. King’s visit “… gave us courage. He taught us that we could stand up and do what was right — and do it in peace.”

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Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at MLK Jr. Community Center: 5 p.m. April 19, 2019; MLK Jr. Community Center, 5565 Truman Drive.

Fort Worth Crud Cruiser Event: 9 a.m. April 20, 2019; Casino Beach Park , 7451 Watercress Drive, Fort Worth 76135.

Egg Hunt Extravaganza at Andrew Doc Session Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Andrew Doc Session Community Center, 201 S. Sylvania Ave.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Thomas Place Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Thomas Place Community Center, 4237 Lafayette Ave.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Fire Station Community Center: 10 a.m. April 20, 2019; Fire Station Community Center, 1601 Lipscomb.

Easter Eggstravaganza at Victory Forest Community Center: 11:30 a.m. April 20, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill.

Fort Worth Crud Cruiser Event: noon April 20, 2019; Diamond Hill Community Center , 1701 N.E. 36th St, Fort Worth 76106.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Como Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Como Community Center, 4900 Horne St.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Eugene McCray Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Eugene McCray Community Center, 4932 Wilbarger.

Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Riverside Community Center: noon April 20, 2019; Riverside Community Center, 3700 E. Belknap St.

Compost 101: 1 p.m. April 20, 2019; Fort Worth Botanic Garden Compost Outpost, 3408 West Freeway.
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Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Northside Community Center: 2:30 p.m. April 20, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Building Standards Commission Pre-Meeting: 9 a.m. April 22, 2019; City Hall, City Council Conference Room 290, 200 Texas Street.
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Canceled Collective Bargaining Negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local Union 440: 9 a.m. April 22, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way.
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Building Standards Commission Meeting: 9:30 a.m. April 22, 2019; City Hall, Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Trinity Metro Board of Directors Meeting: 3:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Fort Worth Central Station, 2nd floor Community Room, 1001 Jones Street.
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Northside Area Community Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Northside Area Community Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 22, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 NW 18th St.

Collective Bargaining Negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local Union 440: 9 a.m. April 23, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way.
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Residential Board of Adjustment Special Called Meeting Work Session: 9 a.m. April 23, 2019; City Hall, Second Floor, City Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Residential Board of Adjustment Special Called Meeting Public Hearing: 10 a.m. April 23, 2019; City Hall, Second Floor, City Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
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Canceled City Council Work Session: 3 p.m. April 23, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

Civil Service Commission: 6 p.m. April 23, 2019; Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex Auditorium, 505 West Felix Street.
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How to Form an LLC or Corporation in One Day in Texas: 6:45 p.m. April 23, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
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Canceled City Council Meeting: 7 p.m. April 23, 2019; City Council Chambers, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

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City Plan Commission Work Session: noon April 24, 2019; City Hall, second floor, Council Conference Room 290, 200 Texas Street.
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South Wayside Area Sewer Improvements Project Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 24, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill St.

View the full city calendar and current meetings.