Remembering King, others, looking to future

Published 10:45 pm Monday, January 15, 2018

Kendra Peek/
Community members march during Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Harrodsburg.

HARRODSBURG — If he were still alive, Martin Luther King Jr. would have celebrated his 89th birthday on Monday. Instead, nearly 50 years after his death, people gathered to celebrate the impact he had on the civil rights movement in the United States.

Hundreds gathered at the Mercer County Transformation building, formerly Harrodsburg High School, to remember the man and the movement, with the theme “Reflecting on Our Past to Build a Brighter Future.”

To highlight that theme, students from the Mercer County Schools were included in the program. First, students Zharia and Zhunai Yeast sang, followed by the Mercer County Senior High School Choir.

Kendra Peek/
Brooklin Burgess was one of three ninth grade students who read their “Creative Expressions,” written pieces on the subject of “Reflecting on our past to build a brighter future,” during Mercer County’s MLK Day events.

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Other students were recognized for their creative efforts, including Brooklyn Case, for her T-shirt design; and McKinley Jones, Brooklin Burgess and Kaylie Williams for their creative expressions writing pieces, all with the underlying theme of past reflection for a brighter future.

Monday’s event also recognized Ananias Lorenzo Garvin, the first African-American agriculture agent in Kentucky. Garvin was hired in 1918 as an emergency assistant county agent and his duties consisted of encouraging African-Americans to farm during and after World War I.

“This man made his way across Kentucky and impacted the lives of Mercer Countians with many extension programs and in education in general,” said Luci Hockersmith, extension agent with the Mercer County Extension Office.

There are some inconsistencies concerning his birth, said Hockersmith, but it is believed that Garvin was born between 1872 and 1874 in Hart County, Kentucky. He and his first wife, Effie Williams Garvin, were teachers at the City Colored Public School in Harrodsburg. He was principal from 1903 to 1920, becoming ag agent in the last few years of his time as principal. In 1920, the couple moved to Louisville. He later returned to teaching and remarried in 1940 to Ana Garvin, after his first wife Effie died.

Garvin passed away on May 23, 1952, in Louisville; he’s buried in the Cove Haven Cemetery in Lexington.

Hockersmith read a report by Garvin, published in The Harrodsburg Herald, which laid out some of the programs he worked on as a team with others in the community through the extension program.

The Mercer County Public Library will have a display in February featuring Garvin.

Following the presentation on Garvin, J.H. Atkins, Danville City Commissioner, educator and member of Citizens Concerned for Human Relations in Danville-Boyle County, spoke about how to form a similar organization in Mercer County.

He shared how the group began: in 1991, an all-white Sunday School class at the Presbyterian Church of Danville invited members of the First Baptist Church at Second and Walnut to join them for an eight-week program on race relations.

Kendra Peek/
J.H. Atkins speaks during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Harrodsburg. He refers the audience to a cartoon about racism in children being a learned trait.

Out of that, in 1992, Citizens Concerned for Human Relations was formed. Since then, Atkins said, the group has hosted a variety of ecumencial church services, potluck events, movie showings and discussions, historical festivals, the Frank X Walker Literary festivals and public listening sessions. They have also worked to highlight systemic racism that has existed in Danville.

Hockersmith said a facilitator training will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Mercer County Public Library, to help the conversation continue.

Atkins finished by sharing the video “The Witness: from the Balcony of Room 306,” a documentary featuring the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who was with Martin Luther King Jr. when he was killed on April 4, 1968, in Memphis.

The 30-minute documentary includes video, audio and photos of King and tells the events leading up to his death.

Atkins asked audience members to think about three questions what their reaction was as well as what they may have learned from the video. 

Kendra Peek/
Luci Hockersmith, extension agent for Mercer County, holds up a folder belonging to Ananias Lorenzo Garvin, the first African-American Extension Agent in Mercer County.

He challenged audience members, especially the remaining teenagers in the audience, to consider who and what they are to be a witness for.


The Mercer County Public Library will have a display in February featuring Ananias Lorenzo Garvin.

A facilitator training, led by Dr. Quentin Tyler from the Office of Diversity at the University of Kentucky, will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Mercer County Public Library. Luci Hockersmith, extension agent with the Mercer County Extension Office, said the purpose is to help the conversation to continue, and potentially form a group like Citizens Concerned for Human Relations.