Home > News

Fort Worth celebrates new MLK Heritage Trails Marker

Posted Jan. 23, 2019

Archived Content Information and links provided may no longer be accurate.
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.”

Get articles like this in your inbox weekly. Subscribe to City News

City News

Calendar

Quickbooks Online: 8:30 a.m. April 25, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
Register for this event »

Fort Worth Public Improvement District #14 Advisory Board Meeting: 9 a.m. April 25, 2019; Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Offices, 777 Taylor Street, Suite 100.
View the agenda »

Urban Design Commission Special Called Public Hearing: 10 a.m. April 25, 2019; City Hall, 2nd floor, Council Chamber, 200 Texas Street.
View the agenda »

Financial Statements Basic for Small Businesses: 11:30 a.m. April 25, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
Register for this event »

Eagle Mountain Sewer Diversion Line Project Meeting: 6:30 p.m. April 25, 2019; Lake County Church, 8777 boat Club Road.

Building Out a Successful Sales Program in 2019: 9 a.m. April 26, 2019; SCORE Conference Room at the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
Register for this event »

North Beach Corridor Public Art Project Materials Collection Event: 9 a.m. April 27, 2019; Brennan Drop-off Station, 2400 Brennan Ave., Hillshire Drop-off Station, 301 Hillshire Drive.

Fort Worth Crud Cruiser Event: 9 a.m. April 27, 2019; Como Community Center, 4900 Horne St, Fort Worth 76107.

Collective Bargaining Public Notice for Fort Worth Professional Fire Fighters Association: 9 a.m. April 29, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way, Fort Worth, Texas 76107.
View the agenda »

Collective Bargaining Public Notice for Fort Worth Professional Fire Fighters Association: 9 a.m. April 30, 2019; IAFF Local 440 Office, 3855 Tulsa Way, Fort Worth, Texas 76107.
View the agenda »

Canceled City Council Work Session: 3 p.m. April 30, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

Dia de los Ninos at Victory Forest Community Center: 6 p.m. April 30, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill.

Canceled City Council Meeting: 7 p.m. April 30, 2019; City Council Chambers, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.

View the full city calendar and current meetings.