Starkville's Unity Park unveiling delayed

October 25, 2013 10:13:34 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


A Saturday public unveiling for Unity Park, a set of plaques honoring key national figures that played significant roles in the civil rights movement, is now delayed until an unknown date, supervisors confirmed Thursday. 


Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer and Vice President John Montgomery both confirmed District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, the county representative tasked with organizing the event, alerted them to the cancellation via phone calls Thursday. Calls to Howard and County Administrator Don Posey went unreturned. 


Both Trainer and Montgomery said planning issues and the event's timing led to the cancellation. 


"I'm just as anxious as others are to see this park open to the public, but we're waiting to follow (Howard's) lead," Montgomery said.  


Supervisors pitched two tentative unveiling dates - Saturday and Oct. 26 - in September after the board previously hoped to dedicate the park in August. 


Unity Park, a green space featuring four engraved plaques honoring those who fought for social change on a national level and another displaying a time line of local dates in the fight for equality, have remained covered by tarps since the space next to the Oktibbeha County Education Building was completed in 2011. The park is located in the education building's parking area, between Mugshots and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department. 


Two blank plaques are included in the park and could be engraved for future dedications. 


District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, who led informal meetings with citizens concerned about the park's unveiling and future, previously recommended the blank plaques honor an early Oktibbeha County NAACP leader, A.D. Johnson, and physician Douglas Connor. He estimated engraving costs in July at about $800 per plaque.  


A third plaque, he suggested, honoring the 1963 "Game of Change" between Mississippi State University and Chicago's Loyola University could be installed at a later date. 


No funding streams have been identified for those improvements, but the board previously suggested that the concerned citizens group seek public donations.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch