GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The City of Gulfport hosted an event on Wednesday morning, allowing citizens to reflect on the importance of that historic legislation.
Many of those gathered outside city hall remember that moment when Johnson signed the bill which led to the end of segregated schools and outlawed discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere. The Rev. Sonny Adolph was 10-years-old.
"I can't help but thank God for being able to live in a country where my people could go from being recognized as only three fifths of a human being, to being free," Adolph said.
Mayor Billy Hewes told the crowd there is strength in diversity, a diverse economy and diversity of citizens.
"The fact that we see the bigger picture, we come together, hopefully, at every opportunity that we get. We don't get it right all the time, but we get it right most of the time," said Hewes.
"We're well aware that everything is not all rosy in America, and it probably never will be. But we're thankful for the laws and the rights that we have under this civil rights act," said Ruth Story, President of the Gulfport NAACP.
Story recalled growing up with segregated schools and being denied a choice to attend the same college where her white neighbor enrolled.
"Thank the Lord our children don't have to do that today. Our children can go to Jeff Davis. All of our children can go to Jeff Davis if they want. Go to USM," Story said.
Hattiesburg native Mary Spinks Thigpen also endured the sting of segregation.
"Wanting to go to USM or the Methodist Hospital nursing school, could not go," Spinks Thigpen recalled.
"Hewes stepped out on a big limb this morning. There's some people that would rather this event not take place, but thanks be to God that we're all here and we're all of one accord," said Wayne Ferrill, Vice President with the Gulfport NAACP.
"Thank you all for doing your part to make this a better city," Story told the gathering as they dismissed.