Kenneth L. Webster was the new kid on the block in 1970, an eager young politician, still wet behind the ears. In the shadow of the StateHouse, he ran into two locals on a mission.
The Rev. Leroy Bowmanand Carl O. Snowden, civil rights activists in Maryland's capital city, cornered him with a request. They wanted the new Democratic representative from Baltimore to sponsor a bill making the Rev. Martin Luther King's birthday a state holiday.
"I agreed right away," Webster recalled yesterday. "I thought it would be the right thing to do, to honor an African-American that wasworking for justice."
He lobbied for four years to have Maryland celebrate King's birthday. In 1974, after heavy caucusing led by Webster and other black legislators, the state became the second in the nation to declare the birthday an official holiday.
Next Wednesday,his efforts will be honored in Annapolis. The 56-year-old former delegate, now a public relations official with the Maryland Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be one of nine people honored at the city's fourth annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner.
Others who will be recognized include: Lewis A. Bracy, chairman of the county's Black Political Forum; Dr. Thomas Florestano, president of Anne Arundel Community College; Sgt. Robert Beans, head of the Black Officers Association in Annapolis; and Cecil Burton, a former member of the county Housing Authority's governing board and a longtime civic and business leader.
Fay W. Allen, wife of the late Dr. Aris T. Allen, who broke racial barriers in his medicine career and became the only black Republican in the General Assembly, will accept an award in hisname. Dr. Allen committed suicide after discovering he had cancer last February.
"Each year, what we do by having this dinner is take time to pause and look back at the kind of work that members of the community have done in following the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," Snowden said. "The theme is keeping the dream alive."
In his famous speech at the civil rights March on Washington in 1963, King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
That dream still is alive, Snowden said. The Annapolis alderman organized the annual dinnerat Buddy's Crabs & Ribs to honor those who have struggled in politics, education, business or community work to continue King's work.
Most have ties to Annapolis or the county. Webster has been active inhelping the black community in Annapolis strengthen its political clout with rent strikes and other protests. He also managed Snowden's campaign for City Council in 1985 and has worked with the Community Action Agency.
Dr. Patsy Blackshear, who is being recognized for herwork as an administrator in the Baltimore City school system, is married to Annapolis businessman Leonard Blackshear. Ora Snowden, a 75-year-old leader in senior citizen and church activities, is a lifetimeAnnapolitan. She's also the mother of Alderman Snowden and eight other children. And Annapolis resident Dorothy Chambers serves on the city's Human relations Commission.
Parren J. Mitchell, the first black Congressman elected in Maryland, will be the keynote speaker at the dinner, which begins at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $25, and proceeds go to the Community Action Agency and other non-profit groups. For information, call 269-1524.