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News & Press: Lansing News

Grandson of slaves and first African American governor is keynote speaker at annual MLK Day luncheon

Friday, January 11, 2019  
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A grandson of slaves who attained many firsts as an African American throughout his political career is the keynote speaker for the 34th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Luncheon, Monday, Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., The Lansing Center, 333 Michigan Ave.

Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will address the luncheon theme, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” The event is hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Commission of Mid-Michigan in tribute to the inspiring civil rights leader.

Featured entertainment will be international gospel singer, Grammy award winner Pastor Donnie McClurkin and the Dream Orchestra. Participants and winners of the Commission’s student essay contest and scholarship program will also be recognized.

“Gov. Wilder has the quintessential American life story,” said Elaine Hardy, Commission chair. “He is the proud grandson of slaves and achieved great accomplishments despite living in a state that once denied him, as an African American, admission to its law schools. He has demonstrated what is possible when racial barriers are overcome.”

Gov. Wilder’s political career highlights include:

  • First African American to serve as governor – Virginia 1990-1994, a time when African Americans constituted less than 20 percent of the state’s population.
  • First African American elected to Virginia State Senate since Reconstruction –1969.
  • Highest-ranking African American state official in the nation when elected Virginia lieutenant governor – 1985.
  • Candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in the early 1990s.
  • Winner of the 2004 Richmond, Virginia, mayoral election with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

He is a Korean War veteran and a Bronze Star recipient. Wilder earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Virginia Union University in Richmond, but to study law, he was forced to leave Virginia because African Americans were banned from its law schools at the time. He turned to Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C., for a law degree.

Donnie McClurkin is a top gospel music artist with more than 10 million albums sold. Winner of three Grammy Awards and multiple BET, NAACP Image, Stellar and Dove awards, he has been dubbed by Variety as the “reigning king” of urban gospel. He’s also been a judge on BET’s “Sunday Best.”

Luncheon tickets are $50 each or $800 for a table of eight. They can be purchased at Lansing City Hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave., and East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road. Because quantities are low, please check availability by calling 517.410.2998 before visiting either office.

Dr. Martin Luther King Commission of Mid-Michigan, formerly the Greater Lansing Area Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, works to support equality, diversity and social justice. It focuses on the area’s pressing needs of literacy, youth violence, hunger, mentoring, education and community enrichment. The non-profit appointed body supports a number of community service agencies and promotes youth initiatives, such as essay contests, college scholarships and the annual 8-day Y-Achievers Cultural Immersion Transportation Study & College Tour for high school students. For more information, visit

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