FORT MILL — Fort Mill residents gathered outside Fort Mill Town Hall last week for the sixth annual observance for the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mayor Danny Funderburk opened the Jan. 21 event with a few remarks, and the Rev. Linda Hill of Indian Hill AME Zion Church led the gathering prayer.
Rufus “Rudy” Sanders, chairman of the Fort Mill History Museum and a native of the Paradise community of Fort Mill, was the keynote speaker. A veteran of the war in Vietnam, Sanders served almost 30 years with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and with the New York National Guard. He was awarded the Defense of Liberty Medal after his service following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Sanders is involved in many projects and organizations, such as the George Fish School Alumni Monument Project, the History Preservation Committee, Move Fort Mill Forward, Paradise Community Development Block Grant, and many others. The George Fish School served Fort Mill’s African-American students during segregation.
“We are all perched on Dr. King’s shoulders,” Sanders said.
He went on to reference Dr. King’s speech about “Life’s Blueprint” at a high school in Philadelphia.
“Are you working your ‘Life’s Blueprint?’,” Sanders asked. “What is it? It is displayed as a simple dash between someone’s birth year and death year? It is the biography of your life span on Earth.”
Sanders stressed the importance of two major components of fulfilling a “blueprint”: working hard no matter what your job and providing service to others.
He detailed the life of William Berry, a man, he said, who encompassed both of those ideals. Born in 1885 in Paradise, Berry was affectionately known as “Uncle William,” Sanders said. Berry serviced outhouses, but even while cleaning out waste, Berry embodied Dr. King’s words to do your job so well that the “living, the dead, and the unborn could not do it any better.”
Sanders said Berry did more than just his job – he volunteered at the Old Jerusalem Baptist Church to raise money to restore the exterior. He also helped with the actual labor.
In the 1950s, when outdoor toilets became obsolete in town, Berry became a street cleaner for the town of Fort Mill. Sanders said he would be “sweeping the street as if he were cleaning a palace.”
Not too long after, Berry Street in the Paradise community was named after him – the first African-American “Street Sweeper” of Fort Mill.
To conclude, Sanders reminded everyone to live out their own blueprint and encouraged people to volunteer service at the Fort Mill History Museum.
Following Sanders’ speech, the Rev. Leroy Murdock read his poem, “We Have the Power in Christ to Keep Moving Forward with Dr. King’s Dream.” The audience responded with enthusiastic bursts of “Amen!”
The event included a performance by the Faith Christian Ministries Choir, which sang “The Greatest Friend of All” and “We Shall Overcome.”
The Rev. Phillip Cargile concluded the event with the benediction.