Grand marshals named for 16th Dr. MLK Jr. celebration Jan. 16

Tuskeegee airman Lt. Col. James C. Warren, Iris Jackson and Bishop Dwight Amey will be the grand marshals of the 16th annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, Jan. 16.

The event will begin at 11 a.m. with a march along Martin Luther King Jr. Way from the Amtrak Depot, 324 W. 24th St., to the Merced County Fairgrounds at 900 MLK Way. A two-hour multicultural celebration will be held at the fairgrounds starting at noon.

There's no admission charge for the celebration. The event is organized by the MLK Planning Committee and sponsored by the city of Merced and the City Recreation Division.

The Los Banos Buffalo Soldiers and grand marshal from last year’s event, National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, will also attend the festivities and will hold honorary positions in the march.

Inside the Exhibit Building at the fairgrounds the celebration will continue with a multi-ethnic unity program featuring entertainment by local school children, youth groups, choirs and speakers. There will be exhibits reinforcing the “Unity” them of the event, as taught by King.

Warren is a highly decorated retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, who served his country for 35 years. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the armed forces. Warren flew in more than 173 combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

He has received numerous awards for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation medal and other awards. Warren’s career was highlighted by being selected as the navigator of “Homecoming One,” the first C-141 to fly into Northern Vietnam to rescue and return American POWs to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

Iris Jackson is an educator and contributor to every community that she’s lived in. She began her teaching career in Texas shortly after graduating from Northern Michigan University in 1974. She then moved to Livingston where she taught for nearly 23 years.

In addition to her career, she has been a lifetime contributor to the community. Jackson has played an active role in every church that she’s attended — Sunday school teacher, choir member and as the director of Christian Education. From 2002 through 2008, she served as a volunteer teacher at the All God’s Children Christian School. She was also the director of the Perry-Yokley After School Program from 1998 to 2002. She is a member of The Atwater-Merced Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.

She’s been married to her husband, retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant William E. Jackson, for 55 years. They have three children — William Jr., Pamela and Felecia as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Mrs. Jackson will serve as the mistress of ceremony as well as a grand marshal.

Bishop Dwight Walter Amey, Sr. has been pastor of New Faith Tabernacle Christian Church of Merced for 36 years. He has conducted revivals and marriage seminars across the country and in Germany, Japan and Turkey.

He's a past member of the Merced City Council, Officer of the Courts, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, member of the Merced Citizen Advisory Redevelopment Agency, City of Merced Parks and Recreation Commissioner and president of Friends of Merced Parks and Recreation. Amey also is the chairman for the annual Martin Luther King Celebration. The City Council recently honored him by naming the Dwight Amey Neighborhood Park after him.