Juanita Woods of Springfield will be grand marshal for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
The annual parade will be held Monday in Springfield at 10 a.m.
Woods was born on Christmas Day in 1937 and grew up in Shawnee. She and her husband, Adell, a former grand marshal for the parade, will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in July.
They live in the same tidy home they bought in 1969, which is now sprinkled with pictures of Woods’ family. They have six children, 19 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. All three of their sons served in the military.
Woods cleans houses twice a week with her daughter and said she loves to sew in her spare time, as she showed off the curtains she made.
“I’m grateful that they even thought to elect me grand marshal,” Woods said.
She said an outgoing pastor of hers, Rev. T.J. Kent, inspired her to get involved and want to make a change in the world.
“I got into it to make a change, voting rights change. Giving people and opportunity to go vote and to register. That’s what I really started working with, registering voters,” said Woods.
She said they would stand outside of places like Wal-Mart on Saturdays to register people and that they would check voting machines to be sure they worked properly on election days.
Woods was involved with the MLK Jr. Observance Day Committee for 18 years, and served as the committee’s president nearly all of those years.
She has also been a member of the Effingham County branch of the NAACP since it was established in the 1960s and said she served as president for 20 years.
This year’s theme, “Dreamer’s of Today-Leaders of Tomorrow,” is particularly appropriate as President Obama sits as the first black president of the U.S.
“Martin Luther King, what he anticipated became the truth,” Woods said of Obama’s election. “You shouldn’t look at the skin; you should look at the person whether they’re black or white, blue or green. If they do a good job, let them do it.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities will begin with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at the Effingham County administrative complex followed by the parade. Beginning at Laurel Street, the parade will go through downtown Springfield with a number of civic groups, churches, stores, individuals and the bands from Effingham County and South Effingham high schools.
A youth service will be at noon at the Effingham County Recreation and Parks gymnasium, and an evening service will be held at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
With a picture of Dr. King looking over her dining room Woods said she thinks of the growth of the MLK Day celebration like a rose.
“It blooms a little bit and a little bit and a little bit. This year it’s open. The rose is open, and it’s beautiful, rosy, all different colors and all different nationalities of people. I think that’s still a success of people working together.”