Montevallo parade honors MLK Jr.

Parade Grand Marshall Johnny McClain rides with his granddaughter, China Anne McClain. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – The weather was crisp and clear at Montevallo’s George Dailey Park during Shelby County’s only Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Jan. 17.

Montevallo’s mayor, Ben McCrory, had the opportunity to ride in the parade and present a resolution to Johnny McClain, the grand marshal of the 7th annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade.

“Dr. King was heroic when he lived, and he’s still heroic after his death, which is even more meaningful in occasions like this,” McCrory said to the gathered crowd. “It has been a pleasure for me to not only support, but also to walk in every parade we’ve had since the very beginning.”

This event, and similar presentations, holds importance in the lives of everyone and every community, not simply the African-American community, McCrory said.

“Dr. King just got it started. I believe that he was heroic when he was here, and I think he’s even more heroic to people – white and black – now than he was when he was here,” McCrory said. “There’s probably a 30-percent increase over last year in the people who are here. It just grows every year.”

The program following the parade highlighted McClain’s contribution to the Montevallo community. During the time of integration, McClain was one of the first black men to transfer from Prentice High School (now Montevallo Middle School) to Shelby High School. He worked as a coach, bus driver and government economics instructor before returning to Montevallo Middle School as the school’s first black principal. He served the school for 24 years.

McClain’s granddaughter, actress China Anne McClain of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” welcomed her grandfather before his speech.

“I came up here specifically for this event, because I’m so happy for my granddad being grand marshal,” China McClain said. “This day is really important to me. I hope you all are having a fun time; I know I am! We love you, Mr. Grand Marshal!”

“Mr. Grand Marshal” walked to the cross-shaped podium and began to deliver his speech to the enthusiastic crowd.

“Dr. King is personal to me. My greatest American hero. Not that I think less of the founding fathers, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, but I didn’t know them. History teachers knew about them,” McClain said. “With Dr. Martin Luther King, I knew him.”