Annual Motorcade Honors Martin Luther King Jr.

This was the 14th year a small group had gathered at northeast Reno's Second Baptist Church, got in their cars and drove a circuit of U-395 north to Stead, south to Neil Road and back.

Other motorists sharing that route might have wondered about this group of cars moving deliberately, headlights on, some carrying placards and trailing balloons.

It's likely most of them usually take little notice of a few small signs on this busy highway. Today they might have and that was the point.

The 22 miles of 395 between Mount Rose and Bordertown is, in fact, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Highway.

The roadway and the motorcade honor Dr. King, of course, but in a sense it's also honoring a local man who is a hero to many.

You see, there wouldn't be a Martin Luther King Highway, but for the efforts of the Reverend Onie Cooper.

One of northern Nevada's early civil rights leaders, Cooper fought for years to have a local street named for the civil rights leader who inspired him. He was blocked at every turn.

Finally Governor Bob Miller stepped in. Chiding local officials for their lack of political courage, he designated these miles of U-S 395 as Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Highway.

"When he told me he'd gotten a portion of the highway dedicated, he told me that was one of the happiest days of his life," says Onie Cooper Jr.

Until last year, when illness kept him from it, the elder Cooper led this caravan every year to remind the community of Dr. King's legacy.

He died last spring. He'd no doubt be pleased to see others keeping the tradition alive reminding the community how far we've come.

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