Charlotte’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade stirs memories on Saturday

The sights and sounds of Charlotte’s Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade on Saturday took spectator Brady Crump back to 1963, when he saw King make his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Even though Crump was far back in a large crowd, he knew that moment in Washington, D.C., was an important one in history.

For Crump, it was also important to stand along Tryon Street on Saturday with his wife and 3-year-old granddaughter.

“I’ve been a supporter of this parade for many years,” said Crump, 72, a retired barber from Albemarle. “I dropped a prayer breakfast this morning to come to this. This is what I wanted to do. I was a participant for the struggle. I came through that era.”

Charlotte’s parade came two days before the observance of the federal holiday honoring King’s birthday and leadership in the civil rights movement.

The parade featured more than 80 local and regional organizations and had about 4,000 participants, including Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter. The grand marshal was Warrick Scott, grandson of the lateWendell Scott, the first African-American to win the NASCAR National Series and the first African-American inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Scott will be inducted on Jan. 30.

Paradegoers, many bundled up on a chilly morning, cheered as marching bands, community organizations and step-and-drill units passed by.

Amateur photographer Chris Cumberbatch snapped pictures of anything that caught his eye.

“I enjoy photography,” said Cumberbatch, 54, of Charlotte. “And I enjoy the excitement and atmosphere of the parade. But we’re also here to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.”

Horace and Sheree Cross of Charlotte brought their 4-year-old daughter, Mariah, to the event. Before leaving home, they read her a story about King’s role in the civil rights movement.

“We’re teaching our daughter about history,” said Horace Cross, 28. “Her entire life there’s been a black president. She can’t fathom what Martin Luther King stood for.”

Rodney and Tonia Crowell of Huntersville came to watch their 16-year-old daughter, Erin, take part in the parade and also celebrate King’s legacy.

Tonia Crowell, 44, grew up in Atlanta, King’s hometown. As a majorette in the Murphy High School Band, she marched in MLK parades along Peachtree Street. “I felt extremely proud to live in the city that Dr. King had lived in,” she said. “I’m proud of my people and for what Dr. King stood for.”

Looking at sidewalks lined with spectators on Saturday, Crowell said, “I have a feeling of peace.”

Tony Howard, head of the art department at South Mecklenburg High School, watched the parade curbside in a folding chair.

Most years, Howard said he walks in the parade with fellow members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the nation’s oldest black fraternity. “Dr. King was our most famous brother,” said Howard, 52. “Traditionally, all the brothers lead off this parade.”

As he surveyed the crowd, Howard said, “it’s very uplifting to see so many people of diversity here. I think that says a lot. In the current climate, I think it’s important to show unity.”