A PROACTIVE organization promoting the teachings of Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Greater Canton Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is a 501(c)(3) organization which was established in 1992 by Mayor Richard D. Watkins in order to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to promote his teachings for the enhancement of community relations. The Commission’s original members were Reverend Walter Arrington, Paralee Compton, Gene DeChellis, Classey Groce, Jasper Harris, Robert Jackson, Rabbi John Spitzer, Cherrie Turner and Judge John H. Weyand.Mayor Watkins held the first meetings at City Hall and then eventually moved to the Edward “Peel” Coleman Building, commonly called the Southeast Community Center on Sherrick Road on the SE side of the city. The Commission currently meets on the campus of Goodwill Industries every second Thursday of the month.
Mayor Watkins also was instrumental in creating an annual Mayor’s Breakfast in which the community could participate. The Mayor’s Breakfast has grown over the years to include mayors from the surrounding areas, hence a change of name was in order. The Mayor’s Breakfast has now become The Mayors’ Breakfast. The Mayor’s Breakfast also lead to the idea of using the Breakfast as a way of giving scholarships to deserving students who were planning on going to college. Agatha Johnson was inspired to begin a Parade of Homes as a fundraiser. Gene DeChellis stepped up immediately with the first $1000.00 to kick the fundraiser off. They both continue to be avid supporters of the scholarships to this present day.
The annual Mayors’ Breakfast has raised and donated thousands of dollars to help students go to college. The Commission established the MLK Scholarship Endowment Fund in order to ensure that students who are pursuing higher education will continue to have an opportunity to realize their goals.
The Commission continues to serve the community through their support of various projects i.e. Book Bag Giveaway, HBCU Tours, Voter Registration, Cover Up Community (free barrier mask distribution), and the funding and erecting of an historical marker commemorating Dr. King’s visit to the Memorial Fieldhouse on March 20, 1964 in Canton, OH. The Commission also maintains its enduring partnership with the Canton Urban League.