Local MLK march began with one East Side man

by Gaige DavilaJanuary 19, 2019
An estimated 300,000 people participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March on Jan. 15, 2018, on San Antonio's East Side. FOLO MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Rev. Raymond Callies is to San Antonio what Martin Luther King Jr. is to America: the most recognizable face of the civil rights movement.

Callies, a pastor and teacher who died in 2012, is attributed by the city of San Antonio as the founding member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. March in San Antonio—the largest MLK march in the nation, the city boasts, with around 300,000 participating every year.

Callies advocated for better infrastructure on the East Side and raised $9,000 for a statue of King in what is now MLK Plaza at East Houston Street and North New Braunfels Avenue. He petitioned the renaming of Nebraska Street to Martin Luther King Jr., Drive and, in 1991, lobbied the Texas Legislature to establish King's death as a holiday.

The march's origin is disputed, but some sources point to Callies' own marching beginning on the East Side in 1968, before or after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4 of that year. (The city’s website says Callies began marching in March 1968.) His family, according to previous media reports, says he began his march in 1972, driving his red Ford pickup through Houston Street to New Braunfels Avenue. By 1978, Callies' march had grown when civil rights groups became involved with the movement recognized in 1986 by the formation of the MLK Commission by then-Mayor Henry Cisneros.

The march of 1986 is considered the first "official" march.

Today, the MLK March is a medium for local, state and national activism, with social and political advocacy group participation growing every year.

The march begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the M.L. King Academy, 3501 Martin Luther King Drive, and continues to Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa St.

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | gaige@saheron.com | @gaigedavila on Twitter

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