Judge Hawkins honored at annual MLK breakfast in Gary: ‘I am a marcher’
By Lisa DeNeal Post-Tribune correspondent January 18, 2014 5:22PM
Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin D. Hawkins on Saturday received the Drum Major Award at the Gary Frontier Service Club’s 35 annual Memorial Breakfast honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: February 20, 2014 6:54AM
GARY — Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins accepted the 2014 Drum Major Award with surprise and humility Saturday at the Gary Frontier Service Club’s 35 annual Memorial Breakfast honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I am not even a native son of Gary. I am an adopted son,” Hawkins said. “And I’m not a drum major, I am a marcher. I’ve always been a marcher ... picketing for the rights of others and diversity. I marched in front of the courthouse on this street demanding a more diverse judiciary system and protesting Indiana U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar for a lack of minorities on the federal bench. I was told I would never be a judge because of my marches. I have marched everywhere for justice. I am profoundly grateful and humbled by this award,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins was one of six “marchers” nominated for the award, along with Dr. Deborah L. McCullough; Steve Mays, president of the Gary branch of the NAACP; Sadie R. Newby Ethridge; Alex Dunlap; Bishop Dale Cudjoe.
Gary Community Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said Hawkins, who once served as an associate minister at St. Luke AME Zion Church in the late 1970s, pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Gary and Community Presbyterian Church in Lake Station, was one of two individuals who molded her into the person she is today.
“Rev. Hawkins, as I prefer to call him, has served as a father figure to me,” Pruitt said. “He spent countless hours with me in the church and I thank him for his mentoring.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said it was a privilege to be among those celebrating King’s legacy, adding that each person has a part in keeping his legacy and dream alive.
“Each word Rev. King has spoken was followed by action,” Freeman-Wilson said. “We must, as individuals or as groups, make an impact in our communities and the world.”
Pruitt and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz also spoke on the need to increase focus on education for children locally and statewide.
“I came into the department as a teacher and I am all about action,” Ritz said. “I believe in focusing on our children and I believe in equity and high quality education for our children.”
Pruitt said she is aware of the failing grade given to Gary Community School Corp.
“We must work above and beyond to do better for our children when it comes to education and growth,” she said.
One of the actions Pruitt announced was distributing 1,500 computers to students throughout the Gary school district.
U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., said more work needs to be done to erase poverty and raise work wages. “Thirty percent of laborers who need federal assistance have an earned income and 38 percent of women were rejected the right to have health insurance,” he said.
Junifer Hall, daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Katie Hall and CEO and chairwoman of the Katie Hall Educational Foundation, reflected on her mother’s participation in making King’s birthday a national federal holiday, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 2, 1983.