Waymon L. Dowdy Sr. helped, along with the Clovis MLK Commission, to make the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Potter Park a reality. June 28 will mark the one-year anniversary of the monument. (CNJ Staff Photo: Eric Kluth)
By Mike Linn, CNJ NEWS EDITOR
2004 marks fifth anniversary of MLK Boulevard’s naming.
When Bruce and Joyce Pollard look back to see how they helped shape the beginnings of a more unified Clovis, their thoughts can’t help but drift forward.
The couple’s fight to help rename Thomas Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard lasted more than five years before reaching fruition in 1999 — a mere brick in a goal to lay a foundation of unity among races.
“We’d like to see more togetherness; this is a multicultural society,” Joyce said.
The Pollards are active on the Clovis MLK Commission, a group of about 20 like-minded residents whose goal is to help diversify Clovis.
Among their goals for diversity, the Pollards said they would like to see more business and growth on the west side of town where many blacks live; more black teachers in Clovis schools; more culturally diverse workforces; and more young blacks educated about the lives of civil rights leaders.
The Pollards said they’ve lived through various forms of discrimination and segregation, have seen it pass, and are now promoting more change.
Bruce was part of the first class of blacks integrated into Clovis High School in 1955. One of three blacks on the Wildcats football team, Bruce remembers road trips when the bus made several stops in an effort to find a restaurant that would open their doors for blacks.
Those days are gone, but Bruce still feels America and Clovis in particular have a long way to go to fulfill the dreams fought for by King and other civil rights activists.
Like King, Bruce has a dream: “I’d like to see every school nationwide teach black history year-round, not just in February (Black History Month).”
Former MLK Commission member Waymon Dowdy Sr. agrees with the Pollards. He feels attaining a more diverse Clovis is something that needs to be worked at tirelessly.
Like Bruce, Dowdy is an advocate of making the Clovis school system more diversified.
“I want my grandchildren to be able to compete, not because of the color of their skin, but because — like Dr. King said — of the content of their character,” Dowdy said.
Clovis Municipal School Board member Mark Lansford said a recent school survey showed that just over 74 percent of parents believe the cultural makeup of teachers is comparable to the cultural makeup of the community.
Lansford said he is an advocate of a culturally diverse school system.
The Clovis MLK Commission formed in the early ’90s, and immediately began lobbying to change the name of Thomas Street. But members said they met resistance from some members of the community.
For example, the Pollards said a business owner who had property on Thomas Street was adamantly against the name change.
Moreover, MLK commission members said they also met resistance from doctors employed near or at Plains Regional Medical Center at the north end of the street.
The doctors, they said, didn’t want to change letterheads on paper and envelopes that read Thomas Street.
But advocates for the name change were many, including former City Commissioner Robert Moreno, who died last year, and City Manager Ray Mondragon.
The city commission eventually approved the name change by a 5-3 vote, and the unveiling of the new street name came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, 1999.
But shortly after new street signs were erected, they came down: Bruce said he remembers driving the street and noticing vandals were stealing many of the street signs, which bothered him.
The MLK Commission was also influential in getting a King monument erected at Potter Park over the summer.
Of all babies born in 2001 in Curry County, 9.3 percent were black. The percentage was the highest in the state. Nearby De Baca County claimed second with 5.3 percent.
According to 2000 population statistics, Curry County’s black population is 6.9 percent, the highest in the state. Lea County’s 4.4 percent black population is a distant second.
Even so, the Pollards believe Curry County is not as diverse and unified among cultures as other counties with a far smaller percentage of blacks.
And this is exactly what the Clovis MLK Commission is working to change.
“We want unity and togetherness; we want to inspire others and give back to the community,” Joyce said.