Local community members gathered to celebrate the birth and life of inspirational civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at a series of community events Monday in Anderson County.

Activities started at 10 a.m. with a parade in downtown Palestine, followed by a reception and lunch at 11 a.m. at the Palestine Civic Center.

Two special programs honoring King were held in Palestine — one at the Palestine Civic Center and the other in the Ben E. Keith Community Room.

The civic center celebration featured guest speaker and Tyler native and current Travis County judge Samuel Biscoe, who was one of the first black judges to serve in Texas.

A graduate of Tyler Junior College, Biscoe earned his bachelor’s degree from North Texas State University and attended law school at the University of Texas.

He served for six years on the Texas Agriculture Department Commission and nine years as a Travis County commissioner before being elected to the post of Travis County Judge in 1998.

Biscoe opened his speech with a history of the African American people — beginning with the time of the slave trade from 1500 to 1800 A.D. and continuing through the days of segregation, integration and the present.

“Those were dark days,” he said. “But those dark days have good lessons.”

Biscoe continued his talk with excerpts from Martin Luther King’s speeches and explained what citizens today should take and learn from the life of the great leader.

“Dr. King was committed to education,” Biscoe said. “Not just high school but going to college and finishing college.

“Students today need money to further their education, and we need to help them by providing scholarships.”

The judge also went on to say that King was gainfully employed, he cared for his family and his personal achievements and work for the community were equally important to him.

“We should not let our better conditions keep us from helping others who are not in those conditions,” he said. “Work for yourself and work for others.”

To conclude his speech Biscoe encouraged attendees to register to vote, take advantage of every opportunity to vote, to get involved in political campaigns and to support local African American institutions such as churches.

“Dr. King freed a lot of people,” Biscoe said. “We owe it to ourselves to continue that legacy.”

The civic center celebration also featured music from the gospel group Communications and Antioch Baptist Church. Master of ceremonies was Dr. Barry Roberts, pastor of Evangelistic Temple.

In addition, the NAACP Branch 6242 hosted the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Program at the Ben E. Keith Community Room. Master of Ceremonies was the Rev. Derrick Lott of South Union Baptist Church and guest speaker was the Rev. Carl George, pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

A parade and celebration honoring the slain civil rights leader also was held in Elkhart.

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