MLK Annual Caravan Honors Local Man As Well

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Once again Monday, a convoy of cars left Northeast Reno's Second Baptist Church for a drive a portion of US-395. The caravan honored both the slain civil rights leader for which it is named, but a local man who fought for years for that designation.

It's likely few who travel this portion of freeway every day take much notice that this is also the Martin Luther King Memorial Highway.

This annual caravan reminds us of that fact each year. It's also meant to remind us of Dr. King's legacy.

"It's about more than the past," says Rev. Gene Savoy, who led the motorcade. "More importantly it's how we can apply his model of non-violent social activism. It's about moving our community, our nation forward."

"That's the way we should all think," says local resident and caravan driver Tim Shade. "It's about putting people first. Bringing people together, all nationalities, not just one culture, but all cultures."

It not only honors Dr.King's memory, but is also a tribute to the determination of one local man.

The caravan, actually the highway designation itself, is the work of the late Reverend Onie Cooper.

Cooper, one of the founders of the civil rights movement in Northern Nevada fought for years to have a local street named for King. Local officials balked, repeatedly rejecting his suggestions.

Cooper didn't give up.

"He would never say never," says Bill Moon, who accompanied Cooper on many of those missions. "Even when people would vote not to give him the whole highway and said no to him, he'd say 'Yes we can.'"

Finally, Governor Bob Miller stepped in and named 22 miles of U-S395 the Martin Luther King Memorial Highway.

It wasn't all that Cooper had wanted and with just 4 signs along the way, the designation goes largely unnoticed.

For a few miles and a few moments Monday we were reminded of both the man whose name it bears, and the one who fought to put it there.

"The battle wasn't given to the swift or the strong," says Moon, "but those who endured to the end."