September 16, 2013 9:54:59 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Unity Park plaques honoring civil rights champions could remain covered until mid- to late-October.
Supervisors last week set tentative dates -- Oct. 19 and 26 -- as potential days to hold a dedication ceremony for the park next to Mugshots after the county board previously hoped to unveil it in August.
The green space, which is also adjacent to the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department, was constructed in 2001 as an aesthetic enhancement in tandem with the county education building.
Four engraved plaques honoring national civil rights figures and another displaying a timeline of important local dates in the fight for equality have remained covered by tarps since the project's completion. Unity Park also contains two blank plaques.
Informal discussions on the park's future began earlier this year. A group of concerned citizens, led by District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, has met numerous times since January, but the county has yet to hold a formal dedication ceremony.
Last month, board members said they want to invite former Gov. William Winter to the ceremony, but supervisors have been unable to schedule his appearance.
District 3 Supervisor Marvel Howard said the county should focus on holding the ceremony on one of two dates - Mississippi State University's football team has a bye on Oct. 19 and plays the University of Kentucky on the following Thursday. The county, he said, should hold the ceremony regardless of whether supervisors can schedule Winter's visit.
Previously, Williams said the group of concerned citizens wished to honor an early Oktibbeha County NAACP leader, A.D. Johnson, and physician Douglas Connor by engraving the two blank plaques with their likenesses. Engraving costs are estimated at about $800 per plaque.
A third plaque honoring the 1963 "Game of Change" between MSU and Chicago's Loyola University was suggested as a future construction project.
Supervisors declined action on Williams' August request, saying they are hesitant to get drawn into the politics of picking between local honorees and because funding sources for improvements have not been outlined.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch