Use MLK Jr. Day to ‘sit down and talk to folks about Dr. King,’ speaker tells Columbus crowd

Freedom Medley performed by the MLK Unity Choir at the Columbus Civic Center for the Mayor’s annual MLK Unity event, January 19, 2019
Freedom Medley performed by the MLK Unity Choir at the Columbus Civic Center for the Mayor’s annual MLK Unity event, January 19, 2019 Special to the Ledger-Enquirer/Darrell Roaden

William Pickard, a successful businessman, told more than 500 people gathered at an annual Columbus event remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr that civil rights and “silver rights” are important as African Americans work toward economic equality.

Pickard reminded those gathered that King was speaking about the economic plight of black garbage workers in Memphis, Tenn., just before he was killed in April 1968 by an assassin’s bullet.

The LaGrange native, who now owns several McDonald’s restaurants, five black newspapers and other businesses, told “The Dream Lives” crowd at the Columbus Civic Center that he was inspired by King at age 19 during the August 1963 March on Washington.

King’s focus on economic issues played a key role in helping him become successful, Pickard said.

“I got 99 problems, but money is not one of them,” the author of “Millionaire Moves” told the crowd .

Pickard said he has visited more than 60 colleges to talk with young people about taking care of their families, their economic health and others.

“We have a cadre of black men and women ready to come out and do good and take care of other families,” he said. “We must become an example to our young people and grandchildren and our community in what we do.”

Using Columbus and Montgomery Ala., as examples, Pickard said that black people in such cities are doing okay but that they must work to do better.

He noted examples of black men and women who started with nothing and became millionaires. They include television network owner, Oprah Winfrey; Madam C.J. Walker, who started by selling hair care products; and Robert F. Smith, who is worth $6 billion and gave $30 million to the United Negro College Fund, according to Pickard.

As the nation prepares to celebrate King’s holiday on Monday, Pickard said it should be a day to be engaged.

“You ought to sit down and talk to folks about Dr. King,” he said.

Pickard stressed the need for education, training and networking with others in order to become successful.

“If you don’t network, you might not work,” he said.

Mayor Berry “Skip” Henderson addressed the crowd after Pickard’s speech. Henderson said he is committed to continuing the event, which is sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity.

“The amazing thing about this community is the people sitting here,” he said. “If we continue to focus on our love, exhibiting kindness, generating hope, we can send these ripples, not only throughout our community and throughout our state, but throughout our country.”