San Antonio community leaders reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

How the civil rights icon’s life helped transform the lives of some local leaders


Editor’s Note: This story was first published in 2021.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s tenacious fight for equality and civil rights forever changed our nation.

To celebrate and commemorate his life, we asked local leaders to share their reflections on Dr. King’s legacy and how it helped transform their lives.

Barbara Gervin-Hawkins

State Representative, District 120 (San Antonio)

Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (2021)

“Dr. King’s memory serves as the conscious of America. Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day is both a reflection of the dark past perpetrated on African Americans as well as hope for the future.

Dr. King’s dream of a fair and just society establishes the blueprint for America as we seek equity and justice for all. Dr. King’s legacy is epitomized by his power to keep the dream alive, understanding the value of peaceful protesting, artfully articulating the message, as well as his ability to promenade through the hearts of our society while keeping the faith for a better tomorrow.

My life has been directly impacted by Dr. King’s plight. As a living testament and direct receipt of his work, I was able to live where I wanted, sit and eat in a restaurant, go to college, obtain better jobs and serve as a State Legislator. Without Dr. King’s hard work and human sacrifice, my life would have been immensely different.

In this moment I’m also reminded of the many others who sacrificed and put their lives on the line during the Civil Rights Movement from the freedom riders, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, John Lewis and many, many more.

Let us also remember the journey is still ongoing, and the justice we seek will only be achieved through the same principles and diligence as Dr. King. Let us emulate his greatness and take action in our own lives by staying civically and politically engaged with all levels of government. Personally, I plan on using my platform in the Texas Legislature to promote equality for all Texans in any manner available to me.”

Ron Nirenberg

Mayor of San Antonio

Ron Nirenberg (2021)

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a great inspiration to many people across the world, and I am one of them.

Dr. King’s vision was that every person has a role in achieving a society that is equal and more just and that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends bent toward justice.’

Let us all be people who through words and deeds strive to bend the arc toward justice. His vision and legacy are strongly embraced by our community as demonstrated by the size our annual MLK March, and his dream looms over the city’s work on equity, affordable housing and so much more.”

Dr. Carey H. Latimore IV

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History @at Trinity University

Dr. Carey H. Latimore IV (2021)

“MLK’s legacy has impacted my life tremendously. As a professor, I appreciate his commitment to learning. He was a student of the world who believed that leadership requires study and engagement with the world.

King’s devotion to non-violence was not something that he just adopted. It was deeper than just a feeling. He came to it through rigorous study, analysis and contemplation.

As I think about my life, particularly as a person of faith, MLK’s embrace of the beloved community continues to inspire me. My faith informs me to ‘love my neighbor as myself.’ For me, that is the beloved community King spoke about. King’s life demonstrates the ways faith can be a powerful voice for reconciliation. Faith should also encourage us to speak on behalf of those who have little or no voice.

In a world so terribly divided, MLK’s life calls all of us, particularly people of faith, to be less judgmental and hateful. His life confirms the benefits of being more tolerant and considerate. MLK’s optimism shows us that if we work together we can help to heal the deep-seated wounds in our nation and world.”

Demonte Alexander

Director of External Affairs & Special Projects at Bexar Facts

Demonte Alexander (2021)

“When I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, I cannot help but think of the fear, anger, loneliness, and pain he must have felt during his fight for civil rights and social justice. Under immense pressure and threats on his life, he stood firm in his faith and remained determined and focused on his purpose in advocating for social justice and equality.

Today, our nation is just as divided and ideologically polarized as it was in the 1960s. We live in a time where falsehoods have replaced facts and cravings for power, and unchecked privileges overshadow our communities’ needs. Like King, we must continue to organize our communities and stay focused and firm in our resolve. We must continue to find purpose in our work and demand justice, equity and equality for all unapologetically.”

Jessie Degollado

KSAT12 reporter

Jessie Degollado (2021)

“Growing up in Laredo in the 60s, although Latinos were the majority, I realized not all Mexican-Americans were treated fairly — having been an avid follower of the news, even as a teenager, and through accounts I’d heard from my parents.

I believed Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equality was for African Americans, certainly, but also, all minorities.

He opened my eyes to what was possible for me and so many others who were thought of as ‘lesser than’ because of the color of our skin.

Sadly, during my youth, there were three assassinations: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, all heroes of mine.

Yet it was Martin Luther King Jr. who inspired me the most. He gave me hope times were indeed changing for the better. Segregation would not stand, although the struggle to protect our civil rights goes on.”

Kathryn Brown

Bexar County Precinct 4 Constable

Kathryn Brown (2021)

“Dr. Martin Luther King’s movement for racial equality created a platform for my race to be judged by the content of our character versus the pigmentation of our skin.

His crusade for justice enabled our very first, Bexar County African American Constable, Matthew Nite Marshall, to showcase his leadership capabilities.

My heart carries a profound appreciation for the sacrifice that Dr. King withstood for minorities and with great honor, I am the first elected African American Female Constable here in precinct 4.”

Read more like this on our Voices Of A Nation page.

About the Author:

Andrew Wilson is a digital journalist and social media producer at KSAT.