No greater tribute could have been paid to the Civil Rights giant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the anniverary of his assassination than the “sermon” delivered April 4 by Dr. Jerry Taylor.

King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Exactly 51 years later, Taylor, a religion professor at Abilene Christian University, minister, and exective director of ACU’s Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, rocked the house April 4 as guest speaker for the annual Heroes Lunchon sponsored by Interested Citizens of Abilene North (ICAN).

Honored as this year’s heroes were Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge and the city’s first African American mayor, Anthony Williams. As he introduced the people who would present the awards, ICAN founder and Executive Director Andrew Penns reminded the audience of the organization’s motto: I can, you can, and together we all can.”


Mayor Anthony Williams, left, and Police Chief Stan Standridge, right were honored as ICAN Heroes at a luncheon April 4. Photos by Loretta Fulton

Each of the honorees was made an honorary member of ICAN and presented a copy of The Green Book that is housed in the Curtis House Cultural Center, which Penns directs. The Green Book was a directory of places in America where African Americans could stay before integration. The movie of the same name won the Academy Award this year for Best Picture.

Before launching into what sounded like a sermon, Dr. Taylor gave the audience a little history and civics lesson, reciting the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which begins with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“There is a growing ignorance of these self-evident truths in America today,” Taylor warned.

From there, Taylor’s volume and cadence picked up, with each new statement a thunderous declaration and warning against tyranny, the same tyranny that led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

Taylor’s presenation vacillated between sermon and history/civics lesson, with the audience getting more and more into it as he reached the conclusion.

“Hold onto the hand of the invisible God who has brought us to where we are now,” he said.

After a sustained applause, “wows” and “amens!”, Penns said he had heard Taylor speak and preach before but not like on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I think you went a little higher today,” Penns said, “than ever before.



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