San Marcos residents and students stood shoulder-to-shoulder Monday morning to take part in a ceremony honoring the combined efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Texas State alumnus Lyndon Baines Johnson to achieve equality for all people.
President Johnson’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson spoke to the crowd and told stories about her father during the Crossroads Memorial Dedication Ceremony. The event included the dedication of a sculpture depicting King and President Johnson by Louisiana artist Aaron Hussey and a march to the Dunbar Center for a “Peace Pie Social.”
The ceremony’s emcee, Cheryl McWilliams, introduced the first speaker, Pamela Sattiewhite, as a member of the Air Force Reserve with “roots that run deep” in the San Marcos community. Sattiewhite said she came to a crossroads in her life after overcoming the death of her father and facing discrimination against African-Americans in San Diego.
“There are pivotal moments that are crossroads for each of us,” Sattiewhite said.
Sattiewhite said King “saved each of our souls” by teaching people to treat each other with respect and dignity. King’s non-violent approach to combating injustice inspired people around the world, she said.
She spoke about how African-Americans have endured the pressure and pain of segregation and how President Johnson’s Great Society programs aimed to increase equality while eliminating racial injustice and poverty.
Sattiewhite said she was blessed with a “quality” college education and stressed the importance of schooling to the students in the crowd.
“Perhaps we have the next (Mayor Daniel) Guerrero, (Condoleezza) Rice or King within our midst,” Sattiewhite said.
After Sattiewhite’s speech, the JROTC led the crowd out of The Square and to the corner of LBJ and MLK Drives, where Hussey’s metal sculpture stands. Emblazoned near the top of the sculpture are the words, “To stand for another’s freedom is to free yourself.”
Hussey said the oval structure atop his sculpture’s arches symbolizes the Oval Office where King and President Johnson’s famous meeting took place. He said both men voiced different ideals during the meeting, but they held the goal of equality in common.
“LBJ and MLK put themselves to task by setting goals,” Hussey said. “This sculpture commemorates a crossroad for these men.”
The march eventually reassembled and came to an end at the Dunbar Center, where the crowd ate pie, drank coffee and watched a local youth group perform a dance routine.
Dolores Aguirre McAllister, San Marcos resident, met President Johnson when she and her classmates were performing the play “A Raisin in the Sun” for him at his ranch in 1972. McAllister said she credits President Johnson with helping her father become one of the first Hispanic postal workers in Texas. She said she also thanks him for her opportunity to attend what was then Southwest Texas State University.
McAllister said there is one main lesson people can learn from President Johnson and King.
“If there’s love, you don’t bully other people,” McAllister said.
Wylinda Tracey of the Dunbar Heritage Association helped organize Monday’s march. Tracey said the MLK Day celebration typically attracts around 200 people, but there were more in attendance this year. Tracey said her grandfather founded the Dunbar Center and formed the Crossroads Project to create the statue depicting President Johnson and King five years ago.
“(The sculpture) was a phenomenal piece to express the joint agreement that the two men wanted to perceive to the world,” Tracey said.