January 20, 2016 Edition

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Hoxie School Board member Jeff Worlow asks Ethel Tompkins, Hoxie School's first African American graduate, about a photo in the display that was exhibited at the Mega King Fest in Little Rock on Monday. Tompkins and Worlow were among those who were in attendance at the event, where Hoxie received the Humanities Award from the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Hoxie receives MLK honors

Gretchen Hunt

The community of Hoxie received the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission's Humanities Award at the Mega King Fest, held Monday in Little Rock.

The Hoxie School Board voted to voluntarily integrate in 1955 and became the first challenged integration in the state of Arkansas when segregationists fought the decision in the court system. The board upheld its decision, as did the courts, paving the way for many other integration efforts in the future.

The commission presented the Humanities Award to Hoxie for its contributions to the civil rights movement and to American history.

Approximately 50 were there to represent Hoxie at the ceremony with many from Hoxie and other parts of Lawrence County in attendance, as well as former Hoxie residents, including several who were students when the school integrated in 1955.

Charley Penix and Susan Penix Fitzsimmons, children of William "Bill" Penix, who served as Hoxie School's attorney during the 1955 integration, were also among attendees.

Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker, Supt. Radius Baker, current School Board member Jeff Worlow, and Hoxie students from 1955 Ethel Tompkins, Milena Lacefield Smith and Larry Couch accepted the award on behalf of Hoxie.

Mega King Fest included many speakers and performances, including a keynote speech by Arun Manilal Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

An exhibit on the history of the Hoxie integration was also featured at the event, as was information on plans for the proposed Hoxie Civil Rights Museum to preserve that history.

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