Christmas arrived on Dec. 2 for the Mesa Martin Luther King Jr. committee, as the Mesa City Council voted unanimously to rename 3rd Place — located off Center Street south of University Drive — to Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the downtown corridor.
The historic vote was the icing over flowing the cake and indeed the climax towards the Mesa MLK storyline dating back to November 1992 when the state of Arizona after several unsuccessful bids for a holiday was finally approved by voters to become the 49th state to designate a holiday honoring Dr. King.
In that same election, which approved a statewide holiday, Mesa voters rescinded a municipal holiday created by the Mesa City Council in July 1992.
In September, 1995, another attempt towards putting the proposition on the ballot for March 1996 failed.
However, the effort strengthened the resolve of King holiday proponents. A coalition of religious, civic and business leaders join together towards obtaining enough signatures to qualify for the November election.
Proposition 108, which established Martin Luther King Jr. as a paid municipal holiday, was approved by 52 percent of Mesa voters in November of 1996.
On behalf of the past and present Mesa MLK Committee members, I say “thank you” to the Mesa City Council.
You’ll hereafter be known in my book as the “Magnificent 7.” You’ve endorsed many wonderful and great things that are evolved into gigantic projects: Mesa Arts Center, the Cubs stadium, light rails, and, I’m sure, many unseen things to come.
In five to 10 years when you’ve moved on and are driving down Center Street with family, and one of your grandchildren says, “How cool, Martin Luther King Jr. Way,” perhaps a warm feeling will touch a soft spot in your heart and maybe a tear will fall because of your endorsement. It is small in nature compared to the aforementioned monumental accomplishments, but priceless in heart and mind.
I was overcome with joy and tears flowed while interviewed by TV stations, asking my thoughts and reaction to the council endorsements. I thought about several key people who made it possible for us to be where we are today. They’ve all gone home to glory: Robert Brinton, Ross Farnsworth, David Muth, Ellen Pence, Jerry Boyd and Mayor Wayne Brown, who worked behind the scenes and convinced many who were on the fence debating Mesa’s MLK issues to cross over.
On his last day in office, Mayor Brown noted of all the things he did as Mesa’s mayor, he was most proud of the holiday success while in office.
Most of these folks interned at the Mesa City Cemetery, and, as a Mesa park ranger, I’m aware where they rest because we patrol the grounds and lock the gates at night. I paid a visit to each grave a few days after the street name was changed and thanked them.
“3rd Place,” now “MLK Way,” was where the old Mesa Rendezvous segregated swimming pool stood. That location now houses the Mesa Convention Center offices. Twenty years ago, it was the Rendezvous Center, where in 1993 we celebrated Mesa’s first formal MLK celebration.
Today, it’s the starting area for the annual Mesa MLK Parade. Could this be karma? A man once said, “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand during times of comfort and convenience, but rather where they stand during times of challenge and controversy.”
Mesa City Council will forever be remembered for how and where you stood. Thank you, Magnificent 7.
• John Goodie is a Mesa park ranger and volunteer football coach. He lives in Gilbert. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.