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Friendship Nine members lead York’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade

Hundreds of people celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day Saturday with a parade through downtown York and a community celebration marked by food, music and powerful words.

Three members of the Friendship Nine, who were arrested in 1961 for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in Rock Hill and served 30 days at hard labor when they declined to pay a $100 fine, led the parade as grand marshals.

Marshals Willie McCleod, David Williamson Jr. and Willie “Dub” Massey spoke to a crowd gathered at the old Jefferson field, across from York One Academy, after the parade.

“If you’re still acting like somebody owes you something,” Massey told the cheering crowd, “you gotta stop that mess and you gotta get it right.”

Parade organizer Steve Love said the Western York chapter of the NAACP wanted to honor the Friendship Nine because their convictions are expected to be vacated in a Jan. 28 court hearing.

McLeod and Massey said people now recognize and appreciate what they did.

“To come down the street on the float and see the faces of the people was tremendous,” McLeod said.

Massey said he started his teaching career in a segregated sixth-grade classroom in the school building across the street from the field.

“Most of us now recognize,” Massey said, “that what happened in Rock Hill was totally unique.”