GALLIPOLIS — In partnership with RVSP of Ohio Valley, the University of Rio Grande, the Rio Grande Community College and the Southeastern Ohio Branch of the NAACP, Gallipolis Police Patrolman Mark Still presented his thoughts on the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in Paint Creek Regular Missionary Baptist Church, Monday.
Elma Johnson served as the mistress of ceremonies while Rev. Calvin Minnis, of Corinth Missionary Baptist Church, led the benediction. A welcoming message was given by URG President Dr. Michelle Johnston, NAACP First Vice-President Kyle Gilliland and an introduction of area dignitaries given by Martha Cosby.
Gallipolis Police Chief Jeff Boyer was asked to introduce Still after a reading of a proclamation by Gallipolis City Commissioner Mike Fulks.
Still was awarded the Officer of the Year award by Boyer in 2016. Officers of the Year are elected by colleague officers. Still for that year led fellow officers in arrests and received the city’s life-saving award for responding to a structure fire with fellow officers that March. Boyer said that Still went into the structure, found the victim in the smoky building and drug her to the front door of the residence before being assisted by fellow officers to help save the woman’s life.
Still is a 10-year law enforcement veteran. In his current position as a patrolman with the Gallipolis Police Department, he serves as the Gallipolis Police Department’s K-9 handler, a member of the special response team, and is a member of the police department’s honor guard. In addition, he serves on the Buckeye Hills Criminal Justice Advisory Board and is the Commander for the Gallipolis Law Enforcement Explorer program.
“I received a call from dispatch one day that said I needed to go see Judy Payne,” Still joked.” I don’t think I would have went if I would have known they were going to ask me to speak today. She said you know how you complain that you’re never invited to speak at anything, well, you’re invited today.”
“There are several African American men who imparted knowledge and wisdom in me throughout my life,” said Still. “I can’t name them all today but three must be mentioned. That’s my father, Mark Still, Sr., my uncle, Andy English, and my step-father, David Keith Miller…Those poor guys had to put up with me and I had a chip on my shoulder as a kid. They raised me and instilled hard work and that’s where I get my work ethic…I think having strong men in your life is very crucial. I probably wouldn’t have made it as a man without them.”
Still noted the importance of Martin Luther King’s message through his several iconic speeches such as “I have a Dream,” “I’ve been to the Mountain Top” and “Let my People Go.”
“Dr. King was the best representation of protesting with nonviolence,” said Still. “I strongly believe he was a true representation of love, peace, equality and positively. Dr. King said ‘You truly don’t know why you’re alive until you know what you’re willing to die for.’ Dr. King’s message is timeless and still resonates in our lives today.”
Still stressed that had King not been alive, he may not have been able to stand before the congregation in his uniform. Still discussed civil rights laws passed which deterred Americans from being discriminated against for their backgrounds and heritage due in large part to protesters’ actions.
“I’ve been asked so many times over the years why in the world would I choose a career in law enforcement,” said Still. “That question takes me back to when I was a kid. A lot of kids want to be a fireman or a police officer. I guess in that aspect, I was no different. But, it wasn’t until I saw an African American man wearing a uniform, he was a Gallia County Sheriff’s Deputy named Charles Hunter, that’s when I realized that my dream could become a reality.”
“If in my lifetime, if I’ve only influenced one person that it doesn’t matter what their current situation is. (He hopes to have influenced that person to) dream big, set your goals and work hard until those dreams are your reality, even when you’re told no…Never give up,” said Still.
Susan Rogers, director of RSVP of Ohio Valley, announced MLK Jr. Day Essay Contest winners. NAACP Branch President Mabel Tanner offered closing words for the ceremony and the benediction was led by Rev. Harreld Scott, pastor of Paint Creek Regular Missionary Baptist Church.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342 or at the Gallipolis Daily Tribune Facebook page.