Lifelong Troup County resident Donald Gilliam has been appointed grand marshal for this year’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade Saturday in LaGrange.
“I was thrilled to get the honor.” said Gilliam. “It caught me a little by surprise.”
Yvonne Pittman, parade organizer, said she chose Gilliam this year because he had always been the voice of West Point and always spoke up for the community.
“He wasn’t afraid to let the government know how he and people in the community felt.” said Pittman. “And he was for integration like Dr. King. He had fought for equal rights and is a good person for the parade.”
Gilliam, 72, first became active in the community when he worked on the presidential campaign to elect senator John F, Kennedy; since then, he has been steadfast in his beliefs about equality and fairness. On a local level, he is an executive committee member for the Troup County NAACP, president of the West Point Voters League, and chairman and member of the West Point Biracial Committee. He helped lead the efforts to hire minorities in management in Troup County government and businesses in surrounding cities in the 1970s. He is one of the leaders in West Point that peacefully assisted with the integration of schools.
“I am proud to be apart of the movement that helped people come together as one.” said Gilliam. “We had a peaceful and smooth transition from segregation to integration and brought people together in Troup County and other places.”
He was elected to the West Point City Council for four terms, where he worked with Councilwoman Sandra Thornton for years. Thornton described Gilliam as a dedicated and hard-working individual who is a valuable asset to the community.
“He was very instrumental in bringing the community together during early periods of social and racial integration by working as a mediator during times of unrest.” said Thornton. “I’m very happy the organizers of the Martin Luther King Parade are paying homage to Donald Gilliam for his life-long commitments to the people of this community. “
Gilliam has been married for 49 years, and is the father of two, grandfather of four. He graduated from Harrison High School in 1959 and completed his secondary education at Seeburg Vending School in Atlanta. He was employed with Naders Music for 50 years and has served as a deacon and treasurer at Bethlehem Baptist Church in West Point for several years.
The parade is sponsored by the Theta Xi Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. who has sponsored the parade for over 20 years. Step off will begin at Saturday 1 p.m beginning at Granger Park and will travel to downtown LaGrange. “Believe, Achieve, Succeed” is this year’s theme.
For more information, Pittman can be contacted at 706-616-2484 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.