GALLIPOLIS — Al “Scoop” Oliver stressed the importance of unity during a tribute the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Paint Creek Regular Missionary Baptist Church on Third Avenue in Gallipolis Monday afternoon.
The MLK celebration has been traditionally held at the church over the last few years and sponsored by a partnership compromised of the Southeastern Ohio Branch of the NAACP as well as the University of Rio Grande and RSVP of the Ohio Valley. Elma Johnson served as the mistress of ceremonies introducing many of the segments of the Martin Luther King, Jr., tribute. Sabrina Hurt served as pianist. Rev. Calvin Minnis led the invocation and youth in the sanctuary led the Pledge of Allegiance.
First Vice President of the Southeastern Ohio NAACP Kyle Gilliland welcome those attending. Gallia Judge of Common Pleas Margaret Evans offered greetings from the county while University of Rio Grande President Dr. Michelle Johnston offered greetings from Rio Grande and the local college. Martha Cosby asked area dignitaries to stand and recognized many of Gallia’s officials.
Musical selections were offered by the Paint Creek Regular Missionary Baptist Choir. Southeastern Ohio NAACP President Mabel Tanner introduced keynote speaker Al “Scoop” Oliver.
According to information provided by the NAACP, Oliver played 18 years of Major League baseball in both the American and National Leagues, including the 1971 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. A few of his accomplishments include being named to the 1969 All Rookie Team, 1982 National League Batting Champion and in 1985 he passed Lou Gehrig on the All Time Hit List and passed Willie Mays on the All time Doubles List. Al Oliver retired February 1986 with a lifetime average of .303; 2,743 career hits and 1,326 RBIs. Oliver was born and raised in Portsmouth from the date of Oct. 14, 1946.
Oliver spoke strongly of his faith in Christianity and emphasized the importance of learning from the “old hymns” that were often played in church. Oliver stressed the importance of discipline and family living and not being afraid to push the boundaries of a child’s self-esteem. Hard lessons are hard won and one should not be afraid of hurting feelings in the pursuit of truth and “being taught right.”
“When I look back at the life of Dr. (Martin Luther) King, it pretty much reminds me of my dad,” said Oliver. “People my age group know what it was like to have parents and grandparents who went through tough times. That carried on through their lives and to their children.”
Oliver stressed the importance of hymns and music being a strengthening point which motivated the African American community to continue through tough times. The speaker joked at one point that those who knew him well told him he would sneak a “sermon” in anytime he was asked to speak publicly.
Oliver said it was important to not just be a “spectator” in life. Belief in Christianity demanded works in service as well as being a believer of the “Gospel of God.”
“My goal is to be the person I was raised to be,” said Oliver. “I never understood how someone could be against a man like Dr. Martin Luther King. I could listen to him all day long and probably the greatest speaker I’d ever heard.”
Oliver stressed the importance of both “young and old” coming together in this world where racism still held a strong presence. He emphasized his experience playing baseball with “blacks, whites and latinos” and still being able to pull winning games and have a brotherhood in the locker room.
To Oliver, faith in God and the strength of unity was the answer to many of the world’s problems
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.