City’s first NFL player to lead MLK Day march

Published 4:05 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Montevallo’s only representative in the NFL is slated to be the grand marshal of the city’s 15th Martin Luther King Jr. Day March.

Korey Cunningham, 23, an offensive tackle with the Arizona Cardinals, will lead the parade, said the Rev. Kenneth Dukes, president of the Shelby County Branch of the NAACP. Cunningham (6-6, 305 pounds) graduated from Montevallo High School in 2013 and from the University of Cincinnati in 2017 with a degree in health education. Then he got right to work and wound up starting on the Cardinals’ offensive line—quite a feat for a late-round draft pick.

Dukes said Cunningham sustained a foot injury at the end of the NFL regular season. The injury is limiting his mobility during recovery.

“He’s going to be at the front, but I may have to put him in a golf cart,” Dukes said.

Dukes said he is particularly excited to have the city’s first NFL player join his hometown’s MLK Day march. “He is the perfect example of a role model for the kids, and he is somebody they can actually know,” Dukes said. “We have our own Michael Jordan.”

Those who want to march Monday should line up on Island Street behind McDonald’s at 10 a.m., he said, with the march slated to begin at 10:30.

Nobody is left out of the march, Dukes said, even those who cannot walk . . . The Retired Senior Volunteers Program (RSVP) of Shelby County is sending a van to transport anyone who wants to participate but is unable to march.

“We want this to be inclusive, and we don’t want to exclude anybody,” he said.

Participating in the march will be Dr. Kathryn R. King, a retired University of Montevallo English professor who documented two Montevallo lynchings. Dukes said she will carry a wreath to commemorate the victims and will place it on the stage at Montevallo High School’s auditorium where a Martin Luther King Jr. Day program follows the march.

Remembrance of lynching victims is not a gesture of anger, Dukes said. “That the fact (of lynchings) is being acknowledged is what most African-Americans always have wanted, that these victims are not forgotten.”

Montevallo not only is hosting the march for the 15th consecutive year—it is the only municipality in Shelby County ever to hold such a commemoration. The initial programs were launched by the late George Dailey, Shelby County’s first black county commissioner.

After Dailey’s death, the late Dr. Earl Cunningham took over. Asked if the two Cunninghams were related, Dukes said “I’m not sure, but maybe way back.”

The NAACP branch was formed in 2013 following the Shelby v. Holder U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. Further information about the organization is available on the branch’s Facebook page: