Local residents gathered early Monday morning for Hinesville’s 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, grabbing the best viewing spots along Gen. Screven Way, Hendry Street and Main Street.
Children bundled in heavy coats waved tiny American flags, while their parents, many of whom also were bundled up for what started as a cool morning, waved larger flags. They received their flags from Midway resident Ted Harris, who greeted everyone with a warm smile and a token flag.
“I suppose I’ll give away about 700 flags this morning,” Harris said as he bent over to give a flag to shy little girl waiting with her family across from the Liberty County Justice Center. “I started out way over on Screven and worked my way around to here. Now I’m working my way back to catch those folks just getting here.”
Young children waved their flags in excitement, probably more in response to the growing crowds than for a parade they had never seen before. Jaison Thomas, 2, seemed unsure of what to do with his flag, but his sister, Jaela Polk, 4, waved hers like a pro, grinning as she swung it around. Meanwhile, their mom, Staff Sgt. Tanya Thomas, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, kept a watchful eye on both her children because traffic had yet to stop flowing on Main Street.
When it finally rounded the corner of Hendry Street to Main Street, the parade was led by a Hinesville police escort followed by a color guard provided by the Hinesville Police Department. Behind the police department was a military color guard, provided by the 4th IBCT, with about 40 soldiers marching in formation to the cheers of adults and children.
Parade Grand Marshal John D. McIver waved to the crowds from the passenger seat window of a black Ford sedan. McIver, who served as mayor of Riceboro for 20 years, is the chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners. A 1959 graduate of Liberty County High School, he retired from Interstate Paper LLC after 39 years. According to the MLK Observance Association, McIver has been a member of the Coastal Georgia Community Action Agency Authority’s Board of Directors for six years, and he served four years with the Georgia Conference of Black Mayors.
McIver’s parade car was followed by a series of shiny sedans carrying the mayors and council members of Hinesville, Riceboro and Walthourville. Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones participated in the parade on foot, as did hundreds of pastors, civic leaders and local residents, including the Liberty County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Several groups marched together arm-in-arm, some singing spiritual hymns, reminiscent of the civil rights protests of the 1960s.
Both Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School maintained a presence in the parade through their marching bands and the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, who marched in step with the band ahead of them.
There were no more than a half dozen actual floats in this year’s parade. Most notable among these was one commemorating the MLK Monument. It contained the words, “The foundation has been laid, so we must march onward.” Still another float offered images of this year’s theme for MLK Day, “Our History, Our Choices, Our Future,” with displays that included a cotton field, a county jail and a voting booth.
The MLK Jr. Day Parade was followed by a noontime commemorative service at Bradwell Institute.