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Women honored at King celebration

Annie Cooper and Jean Martin were presented Lifetime Achievement Awards Sunday night at the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

The Freedom Foundation presented statuettes to Cooper, who was too ill to attend and Martin, and a video about each woman’s life played on a large, projection screen to a standing ovation at Pickard Auditorium.

Cooper was the first person in Selma to lose her job while standing in voter registration lines. She is most well known for punching Sheriff Jim Clark behind the Dallas County Courthouse in 1965. Cooper was severely beaten, and her photo and story story ran on the front page of the New York Times.

“It’s no surprise to me how she was able to take Jim Clark down,” said Lorraine Capers, who presented the award.

Frank Hardy, a professional boxer and Selma native, presented Cooper with a pair of boxing gloves to honor her role in the voting rights struggle. Hardy grew up in the same neighborhood as Cooper.

“We just knew her as ‘That’s the lady that fought Jim Clark,'” Hardy said. “Miss Annie Cooper, to me, is a fighter’s fighter.”

Capers said without Annie Cooper, race relations would not have progressed this far.

“I consider her to be a friend and a role model,” Capers said.

The Rev. Franklin Fortier, president of Selma’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said Jean Martin means just as much to Selma.

“I can’t think of a better person to receive this award,” Fortier said.

Martin was honored for her 16 years on the Selma City Council, where she often took controversial stands for what she believed.

Nancy Sewell, who presented the award, said no matter what, she knew she could count on Martin.

“We have fought and stood by each other through good times and bad times,” Sewell said. “Jean always reached across the aisle.”

Martin said her years on the city council were some of the most difficult of her life. However, she said it was worth it to help her hometown.

“This is my home, my town, and you are all my people,” she said.

Freedom Foundation President the Rev. Mark Duke said Selma could use more events that honor citizens who make a difference.

“I don’t think we do enough appreciating and loving each other,” Duke said.