Nation’s Oldest MLK Parade Marches On In Houston

One of the original celebrations of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will continue on Monday. Houston hosts the oldest parade in honor of the civil rights leader.

A lot of people know about Houston’s dueling parades to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the mid 1990’s, there was a split in the African-American community over which group should host the parade, so now there are two separate parades each year.

Ovide Duncantell is executive director of the Black Heritage Society. His group lays claim to the nation’s first parade in honor of Dr. King.

“Matter of fact, we are the first celebration of this magnitude in the nation for Dr. King. Where we had a street change in ’78 and also had a parade. It was so cold out there on the particular day that you had ice on the ground. But our people showed up and we had a celebration for Dr. King’s father. He was our first grand marshall.”

Duncantell is known for his own civil rights activism. He was arrested in 2012 at the age of 76 for chaining himself to a live oak tree on MLK Blvd.

The tree had been planted in the 1980s as a memorial for Dr. King.

The City of Houston and METRO planned to move the tree to make way for the new light rail line.

“That was for a purpose. That was to keep reminding the City of Houston and METRO that they had to sit down and deal with the community. So now we have a plaza and a statue, larger than life, it’ll be an eight-foot statue on an eight-foot pedestal.”

That statue will be erected on April 5th.

Meanwhile, the MLK Day parade will get underway near Minute Maid Park on Monday at 10 a.m.

“I’m still keeping my promise to Daddy King, who solicited us to work with his — keep his son’s legacy alive here in Houston. And we’ve never missed a year, in 36 years of honoring his son, on or near his birthday.”

Houston’s second MLK parade will also start at 10 a.m. in Midtown.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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