By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – The first female president of Prairie View A&M University, who was born in Grapeland, will be speaking during the 40th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Program presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee in the auditorium of the Crockett ISD Administration Building beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14.

“We have a wonderful program planned for this year,” said Roberta Mason, chairman and founder of the memorial committee. “We have Dr. Ruth Simmons as our guest speaker. She was born in Grapeland, and her family moved away when she was very young.”

Mason explained that Dr. Simmons received her college education at Dillard University in New Orleans and Harvard University. She currently serves as the president of Prairie View A&M and has previously held high leadership positions at Smith College, Brown University – of which she was the first black president – as well as holding positions at Princeton University and Spelman College.

“We are beyond excited to have her as our speaker,” said Mason.

According to Mason, time will be taken during the ceremony to honor the memory of committee members who have passed away and recognize local graduates of Prairie View A&M.

“We want Dr. Simmons to see the effect that Prairie View has had on Crockett and Houston County and how many students have gone on to have a better life as a result of a college education,” Mason said.

Among the speakers who have appeared during previous years of the program are Judge Morris Overstreet – the first African-American judge elected to hold a statewide office – Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and KTRE anchorwoman and producer Christel Phillips.

“We’ve been blessed with great speakers,” Mason said, adding that many of the individuals who have made presentations would never have spoken in Crockett were it not for the program.

“We want to play up the fact that Dr. Simmons is from Grapeland,” said Mason. “We hope that many people from Grapeland will come out and support the program.”

For more information, contact Mason at 936-544-3033.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at