Petersburg was among the first to honor Martin Luther King. This man is the reason why.

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 21:44:51-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- In the early 1970s, a decade before it was a national holiday, the City of Petersburg was one of the first cities in the United States to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday. And Roy "Omowale" Hines was one of the big reasons why.

"My brother was an activist and he was very, very serious about it," Robert Hines said about his brother's push to get King Day recognized in Petersburg. "He believed in Martin Luther King and he believed in non-violent activism."

Hines said by 1973, his brother Roy did not like where things were going in Petersburg. So, he decided to run for City Council. The 25-year-old was elected to represent Ward 4.

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Roy "Omowale" Hines

"He was an exceptional advocate in the city," former Petersburg Mayor and City Council member Annie Mickens said.

Once on the council, Hines worked to introduce Martin Luther King Resolution for his birthday.

"Most of City Council was against it initially," Hines said. "They wasn't ready for it. They didn't think it was the right time. But he pushed and finally convinced all of them."

And with a vote, the City of Petersburg became one of the first cities in the country to recognize Dr. King's birthday as a holiday.

As a teacher, Mickens told her students about Hines and his role in that piece of Petersburg history.

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"It became so historical that Petersburg would rise to the top of being one, some people argue the first in the country, to say that this ought to be a holiday," she said. "The time people may think it's something small, it is monumental that it occurred. But now we have to be reminded, we have to remember and we have to build on the history, so that our young people will not forget."

Roy Hines passes away in 1998 and his link to history, some say, is mostly forgotten.

Mickens would like to preserve the memory of Hines' contribution and see Petersburg recognize Hines and officially document the landmark King resolution.

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