On Monday, January 20, 2020, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County will hold a Candlelight Service to recognize several outstanding Buncombe County residents whose lives and work have emulated Dr. King’s legacy.
The service will be held at Central United Methodist Church, 27 Church Street, at 6 p.m. on the federal King Holiday. The Reverend Brent La Prince Edwards, Senior Pastor of St. James AME Church, will preside, with music provided by the Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church Choir directed by Deacon Cornell Proctor. A poetry performance will be presented by storyteller and poet Shanita Jackson.
The keynote speaker for the Candlelight Service will be Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cash worked for the U.S. Forest Service from 1991 until 2010, when he joined the National Park Service. He served as Superintendent of the Boston National Historical Park and the Boston African American National Historic Site, where his efforts led to the reopening of the African Meeting House, the oldest black church still in its original location in the country.
As a young man, Cash was inspired by the television show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which ultimately led to his decision to become a wildlife biologist.
Since his arrival as Superintendent in the Great Smoky Mountains in February 2015, Cash has addressed the challenges of meeting the demands of almost 12 million park visitors. He has hosted the Hike 100 Centennial program that involved his hiking with more than 180 young people and encouraging them to become future stewards of the park. He dealt with the worst wildfire in Tennessee history—the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. In addition, he has helped to establish a project to educate the public about the history of African Americans in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Dr. Oralene Simmons, founder and chairwoman of the MLK Association, will present the Service Awards honoring four individuals who have exemplified the ideals and service of Dr. King. A public reception in the church’s fellowship will follow the service.