Video: Chattanooga pastor challenges city to deal with violence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day march

Video: Chattanooga pastor challenges city to deal with violence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day march

January 17th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Johnnie Gomez sings "We Shall Overcome" as she participates in the Martin Luther King march that took place Monday afternoon in downtown Chattanooga. Participants marched from Olivet Baptist Church to the Tivoli Theatre where the Rev. Paul A. McDaniel spoke.

Johnnie Gomez sings "We Shall Overcome" as she...

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

King's life

Jan. 15, 1929: Born in Atlanta.

1948: Graduates from Morehouse College and gets ordained into the Baptist ministry at age 19.

1953: Interviews to become minister at First Baptist Church on East Eighth Street in Chattanooga. Church overseers were concerned that, at age 24, he didn't have enough experience.

1955: Joins the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., after Rosa Parks is arrested Dec. 1, 1955.

1962: Returns to Chattanooga in May as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to speak at its annual board meeting at Memorial Auditorium.

April 3, 1968: Delivers his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis.

April 4, 1968: Suffers fatal gunshot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

July 1981: Chattanooga City Commission agrees to change name of Ninth Street to M.L. King Jr. Boulevard.

1986: Congress approves a national holiday in King's honor to be observed on his birthday.

August 2011: King becomes the first person of color to have a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Source: News reports

News reports called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a slain civil rights leader, but one writer noted that he was an assassinated prophet of God, the Rev. Paul McDaniel said Monday.

"That's what they did to prophets," McDaniel said. "They saw him as a communist, as an agitator because he disturbed the peace. Maybe we still need a disturbance."

The Second Missionary Baptist Church pastor and Unity Group president was the speaker for the Unity Group's 42nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration on Monday at the Tivoli Theatre.

McDaniel challenged changes made to the educational system and voter registration. He also challenged the community to deal with economic inequalities and violence.

The event was one of several M.L. King events held around the country.

At Memorial Hospital, Dr. Clark Taylor delivered the 20th annual Peace, Love & Unity Service address. Taylor, a former CEO of the hospital, helped kick-start the annual memorial service 20 years ago.

Taylor talked about King being fearless in his faith, quoting King's statement that men are measured not by where they stand "in times of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy."

He urged those present to find a dream and approach it with eyes of faith.

Students at Baylor School and Southern Adventist University also participated in community service activities in honor of King.

About 1,000 people participated in the memorial march from Olivet Baptist Church to the Tivoli Theatre.

The Rev. Rheubin Taylor, the Hamilton County attorney and pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in LaFayette, Ga., presided over the event. The Rev. A.J. Holman Sr., pastor of Bethel AME Church, gave the opening prayer.

"Please take this offering of our time and attention to fill us with the same spirit for peace and equality that filled Dr. King," Holman said.

The Rev. Leroy Griffin of Renaissance Presbyterian Church gave the occasion. The Chattanooga Symphony and the Chattanooga Gospel Orchestra played, and there were dancing and singing.

Then McDaniel offered the main address.

People forget the tension King must have felt, McDaniel said before discussing controversial topics during his speech.

"I believe he had the assurance that God was with him and the belief that if he would stay the course that God had promised him victory," he said.

McDaniel, who retired from being a Hamilton County commissioner after 20 years, said he was too old to get in trouble for speaking his thoughts, as the crowd applauded and cheered.

He said more money should be put into city schools because of the need to better educate students. He challenged residents and elected officials to deal with violence in the community.

He talked about so many young black people being killed and the murder of Sgt. Tim Chapin, the white police officer who was shot and killed while on duty.

McDaniel also talked about Leslie Vaughn Prater, who died in 2004 while in police custody, and suggested that police get training on how to deal with people. He said the city would not have "paid $1 million to a black family if there was not a sense of guilt."

He admonished the community to also deal with black men.

"Something has happened in our community that we lost the sense of dignity and the sacredness of life. How can we restore it? It is our challenge," said McDaniel.

The community must join hands with the city and pray, and everyone must take seriously what is happening in the black community because if it is in the black community long enough, it will be in the white community too, McDaniel said.

Then he noted City Mayor Ron Littlefield requesting $75,000 to fund a gang study after recent violence in the city.

"I don't see the necessity of a City Council with all of the argument and deliberation about where the $75,000 is going to come from," said McDaniel. "If there is need we should be willing to put $100,000 or $1 million. I know we can find it [the money]. I've been in service long enough to know we can find it."

Staff Writer Ansley Haman contributed to this article.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.