The annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade will be Monday in Springfield. Leading as grand marshal of the parade will be Peter J. Giles Jr. and his wife Inez.
“To me it’s an honor to be the grand marshal of the Martin Luther King p0arade,” Mr. Giles said.
Mrs. Giles said she thought it was nice for Mr. Giles to be asked to be the grand marshal.
Mr. Giles explained what Martin Luther King Day means to him.
“It means I’m free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last. It means that you’ve made a step in the right direction,” Mr. Giles said. “It gives you a feeling that your coming together with your fellow man, all people not one race of people. You’re given a chance to look forward.”
Mrs. Giles said the celebration means a lot to her.
“He marched to make us free, and he died too to make us free,” Mrs. Giles said. She has participated in the parade almost every year that it has taken place.
Mr. Giles gave his advise for the young people in the community.
“The first thing I would tell them to register, and vote,” Mr. Giles said. “Be a member of the NAACP, and not just a member be able to participate in the NAACP. I believe if everyone did that it would make a difference.”
Mr. Giles said it is important to register to vote.
“Before I could vote I had to read a sentence in the legislation they had in Springfield,” Mr. Giles said. “All blacks had to do that before they could register. You couldn’t just go up and sign your name and register you had to read something if you were black.”
“Before Martin Luther King you couldn’t do nothing hardly,” Mr. Giles said. “It was terrible before Martin Luther King. If you was of color on the job I don’t care how good you were you weren’t of no value over 75 cents an hour.”
“They’ve made a lot of changes, but in some places right now we still have to use automobiles and trees and outhouses for restrooms right now some places,” Mr. Giles said. It’s changed a lot, but I think now that we should be able to start the parade at the courthouse.”
He said he thinks the first parade started at the courthouse, but after the first year it changed.
“To me Springfield is the Effingham County seat, and the courthouse belongs to the people of Effingham County not a certain group,” Mr. Giles said.
Mr. Giles is a native of Rincon who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.
In his 82 years Giles has seen many changes in Rincon and in Effingham County.
“I just wonder what my father and mother would say if they could see Rincon,” Mr. Giles said. “I often think of that. When I was a youngster I knew everybody in Rincon. I might not know your name, but I knew what house you came out of. Now I don’t know all the people on the street I live on.”
“I have never seen a place with so much building going on in my life,” he said.
Mr. and Mrs. Giles have been married 58 years. The couple has two sons, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Both are active members of their churches, and Mr. Giles is a member of the Sons of Allen a group that work with boys named for the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen.