In addition to attending Monday's activities, the 69-year-old Cartersville resident and his wife, Ruth, served as the Brotherhood March's grand marshals. The couple led the procession, which started and ended at the Cartersville Civic Center, pausing in the middle for a ceremony at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center.
"It means a lot," Jones said about him and his wife being this year's grand marshals. "[An event like this] says history is going on and it seems like things are beginning to get better and better. We [are] just proud to be able to live in a town that is peaceful and that has God in their hearts."
Describing the Civil Rights leader as a "peacemaker," Jones first heard of King when he was about 12, then later was inspired to help improve race relations in Cartersville. After the schools were integrated, Jones -- as a member of the black men's civic organization, New Frontier of Bartow County Inc. -- visited various schools and met with members of the school board, principals and elected officials.
"I think of [Dr. King] as being a peacemaker," said Jones, who has operated J & W Upholstery in Cartersville for 46 years. "I think of him as being somebody who was trying to do something for the people -- not for one [group of] people but for everybody.
"I think he was a man that believed [in] and wanted rights for everybody. ... I think [people] should take the time out [on this holiday] because I think he and other people accomplished a whole lot. Because I think if Martin Luther King hadn't come along, I wonder today -- I think about that sometimes when I [am] praying -- where would this world be?"
Born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, King was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement for 12 years and four months before being assassinated on April 4, 1968.
According to www.thekingcenter.org, "Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s and '60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by 'any means necessary,' including violence, Martin Luther King Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
"Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation's capitol. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly relevant to the welfare of humankind."
A federal and state holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day marks King's birthday and is recognized on the third Monday in January. Along with Bartow residents, local government officials also played a key role in Monday's observance. In addition to a ceremony being held at the courthouse, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini signed a proclamation to mark its significance.
Addressing the crowd, Brown read the proclamation, which stated "by his example of a moral life, his tireless efforts for justice and equal rights, and by his timeless words of inspiration, Dr. King has helped to transform America from a society in which prejudice, injustice and inequality were accepted practices; to the America of today, where such practices are no longer tolerated but instead are condemned when exposed to the judgment of a more enlightened society; and whereas; in the generations to come, if Dr. King's example is followed, then the great ideals that he so nobly sought and for which he gave the complete, full and last measurement of devotion can be extended to the people of all nations on the earth."
Commenting on the elected officials' participation, Linda Ford Kellogg, chairperson of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee of Bartow County, said their annual support is a continued blessing.
"As far as the overall celebration, we're very fortunate in Cartersville/Bartow County that we have such an event, such a weekend," Kellogg said, prior to Monday's observance. "We also feel that to have a mayor and a commissioner that supports this weekend, I think that says a lot because we're always greeted by them with the proclamation and a message on the courthouse steps [during] the parade.
"The other thing I want to say too is that we wouldn't even be celebrating the King holiday weekend if it was not for a Bartow Countian who was then governor, Joe Frank Harris. And I cannot ever leave that out because that was not easy. He's the one who signed the bill into law for the state of Georgia."
With a theme of "Remember! Celebrate! Act! -- a day on, not a day off," the King Holiday Weekend Celebration began Sunday with a 6 p.m. candlelight service at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which included Dr. Angela Harris with Dalton State College as the keynote speaker. Along with music and singing provided by The MLK Community Choir, the Drum Major Award was presented to Ruby Perdue Morgan.
"[The Drum Major Award] really represents some of the things that Dr. King stood for, like helping children, education, nonviolence. Mrs. Morgan really is a good example [of this] and a really good person to receive that award," Kellogg said, also stressing Morgan's exemplary character and unselfishness.
The festivities continued on Monday with a youth rally from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Luke A.M.E. Church, where youth were invited to pay tribute to King's life with songs, skits, poetry and dance. After the Brotherhood March, the two days of activities were culminated with a Brotherhood March Program that featured a message from the Rev. Reginald McDaniel with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Calhoun.