Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

Living Legends

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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The 12th Annual Living Legends Banquet, hosted by the National Voting Rights Museum, will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at 12 Stone on Water Avenue.

The banquet serves as a kickoff event to the museum’s membership drive. Tickets for the banquet will be sold for $25 and includes dinner as well as a membership to the museum.

Joanne Bland, the museum’s director, said the banquet is one of the museum’s largest fundraisers of the year.

This year’s living legend is the Rev. P.H. Lewis, former pastor of Brown Chapel AME Church. The museum’s board of directors chose Lewis for his unwavering dedication for equal rights in Selma.

When Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to Selma to speak for emancipation services by the Dallas County Voters League in 1965, area ministers were asked to allow the services to be held at their churches. Many refused because they did not want to be in violation of an injunction issued by former Dallas County Circuit Judge James Hare that prohibited meetings to discuss the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Lewis, a Wilcox County native and a Mobile resident, defied that order and opened the doors of Brown Chapel for the meeting. Throughout the 1960s, the church became known nationally as the headquarters for the voting rights struggle.

Others will be honored at the banquet, including the late Claude Cecil Brown. Born and raised in Selma, Brown, who was a member of the Dallas County Voters League and pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, organized a nonsectarian kindergarten in the church.

Brown also organized a Boys Club, which developed into a branch of the YMCA, three Boy Scout Troops and a 4-H Club.

Brown was such an influence on the community, Martin Luther King appointed him secretary of the committee that engineered the Selma to Montgomery march.

To RSVP for the banquet, call 418-0800.