By Jimmie Ferguson

Killeen Daily Herald

"Reflecting on the Journey to Freedom, Justice and Equality," is this year's theme for next week's observance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

The celebration will commence at 12:30 p.m., Jan. 15, at the Killeen Community Center at 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Killeen.

At this year's celebration, Mary Lee Turner-Grubb, a sociology/geography teacher at Ellison High School in Killeen, will deliver the keynote speech.

The program will also feature The A.J. Reed Gospel Ensemble, the Fairway Middle School Dance Team and the Killeen Youth Council members.

"We want to bring relevancy to our children of today about Dr. King's achievements," said Rosa Hereford, one of the program coordinators. "In most cases, youth know his name but not his achievements.

"They don't realize that Dr. King's advocacy of non-violence helped us to achieve a goal for freedom, justice and equality," said Hereford.

Regarding King's legacy and the continued relevance of his life, Hereford noted the recent groundbreaking in Washington, D.C., the prelude to construction of a national memorial in his honor. "He is still impacting our lives."

King, the internationally acclaimed American civil rights leader, was born Michael Luther King, Jr., on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga. His father, Martin Luther King, Sr., was a popular pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

An indication of his academic prowess, King skipped both the ninth and 12th grades before entering Morehouse College at the age of 15.

After receiving his bachelor's degree in sociology at Morehouse, King completed three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951.

With a fellowship won at Crozer, he attended Boston University, and received his doctorate in 1955. During this time he met Coretta Scott; the couple eventually wed and had two sons and two daughters.

King had accepted the pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., shortly before the former Rosa Parks, a Negro seamstress, refused to give up her seat on a segregated city bus. King and other black activists founded the Montgomery Improvement Association, which organized and sustained the successful, 382-day Montgomery bus boycott.

For this and other civil rights activities, King was arrested at least 20 times, subjected to extreme personal abuse and his home was bombed when his wife and children were in it.

His personal courage and faith in non-violent protest and his ability to inspire and shame tens of thousands of others Americans, both white and black, led to the declaration by the United States Supreme Court on Dec. 21, 1956, that laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional.

It was just a beginning. After successfully leading the civil rights movement for years – and being instrumental in the passage of legislation recognizing the rights of blacks to register and vote without the restrictions of southern Jim Crow laws, King was shot to death April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. Despite threats on his life, he had gone there to help lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and intolerable working conditions.

Prior to his death, King had become the recognized leader of the Negro revolution for equality in America. After writing his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," a manifesto, stinging the nation's conscience for its intolerence on race issues, King planned the drives in Alabama for voter registration and led the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people, to whom he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Stepping onto the world stage, King was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963. At the age of 35, he became the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He turned over the $54,123 prize money to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

Delivering the keynote speech on this year's theme of "Reflecting on the Journey to Freedom, Justice and Equality" is a continuation of Turner-Grubb's personal journey as an educator – bringing gifts to the many students she has taught in her 33 years of experience, 17 of which have been at Ellison High School.

As a teacher, Turner-Grubb said she feels she has the ability to translate academic lessons into "real world benefits."

Turner-Grubb usually describes herself as positive, aware and a good listener.

"Students are our customers, therefore I have learned to identify their needs so I can serve them effectively," Turner-Grubb said. "I know my subject matter, and I am able to use appropriate environment strategies to stimulate interest and motivate students to learn in a safe and secure learning environment.

"In this environment," she added, "I will be able to empower students, because they will experience encouragement and support."

A native Texan, Turner-Grubb knew at an early age that she had a special calling. She often recalls her mother saying "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, so put yesterday's plan into action and take over the world."

Turner-Grubb attended Fisk University and Austin-Peay State University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

She pledged the sorority she still holds close to her heart, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. during her sophomore year at APSU. She holds degrees in geography, history, sociology and an endorsement in English.

"I will not pretend to be anyone but me," says Turner-Grubb, who dislikes talking about herself. "I am as I am. So, when you see me, an action is about to take place."

Turner-Grubb said she stays involved in community, church and school activities. She has been a Girl Scout leader and a varsity girls' soccer coach in Germany. At EHS, she has been the secondary adviser to the Iota Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Inc., and at APSU, a volunteer ombudsman and nursing home advocate.

Turner-Grubb holds memberships in the National Council of Negro Women, the Killeen Federal Teachers Association, the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor society, the National Geographic Society, the Killeen Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Grace Christian Center, where she is a member of the elder's staff. During her marriage to the late Dr. Kenneth Turner, who had retired from the military at Fort Hood, the couple shared three adult children, seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Turner-Grubb continues to be blessed. She is remarried to Charles Grubb, who retired from the military as a Judge Advocate General officer. Now, she has six adult children, 15 grandchildren and a precious great-granddaughter.

Contact Jimmie Ferguson at

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