Fort Worth

The battles MLK fought in Fort Worth almost 60 years ago still remain, attorney says

Civil Rights attorney Dexter Wimbish, talks about policing in the African American community

Dexter Wimbish, 49, former Southern Christian Leadership Council general council, said that distrust abounds between the African American community and law enforcement,
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Dexter Wimbish, 49, former Southern Christian Leadership Council general council, said that distrust abounds between the African American community and law enforcement,

It’s not about becoming wealthy or achieving celebrity, it’s about the legacy that you leave, said Dexter Wimbush, a former leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, marking the 59th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Fort Worth.

Wimbish, 49, was the youngest general counsel in the history of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the civil rights organization founded by King in Atlanta.

Wimbish talked to third-year law school students in the Texas A&M University Community Development legal clinic on Monday about the current state of the civil rights movement and encouraged them to take on King’s challenge to be of service.

“You know it’s something that the thoughts of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been replaced with the words of Kanye West,” Wimbush said after the class. “I don’t know why our president had Kanye West come to the White House to speak about prison reform. Maybe he should have been speaking about mental health. But not prison reform.”

Issues such as voter suppression, police brutality and inequality in the criminal justice system that King addressed during his only Fort Worth visit are returning to confront Americans in different forms, Wimbish said.

“We have a court system that needs to change,” Wimbish said. “We need young attorneys and judges who are bold enough to try and fix this. We have too many attorneys who are trying to be celebrities instead of trying to be attorneys.”

Members of the community development class at Texas A&M University Law School were instrumental in helping the Fort Worth chapter of the SCLC obtain permitting for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial going in on Main Street in Worth Square, said Kyev Tatum, founder of the Fort Worth SCLC.

“If it were not for this clinic, we would not have a marker,” Tatum said.

Groundbreaking for the installation of a marker dedicating King’s only visit to Fort Worth took place in April. But the marker’s installation, which was set for this month, has been delayed due to rain and soil conditions, Tatum said.

The new date for unveiling of the MLK Heritage Trail Marker is scheduled for Jan. 21, Tatum said. The MLK on Main Street International Heritage Celebration has been rescheduled for Oct. 19-20 in General Worth Square at 900 Main Street.

The bronze Heritage Trail Marker was commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and made possible by a gift from a Tarleton State University criminology professor, Gary Lacefield, and his wife, Anne.

The marker will also honor King’s local host, the late Vada Felder, a National Baptist Congress author and teacher who was the first African-American to earn a degree from Texas Christian University, then as Brite College of the Bible and now Brite Divinity School.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3
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