Houston Astros All-Star George Springer III, a New Britain native, has been asked to be one of two grand marshals for the Houston Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. The other is John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who is a legend in the civil rights movement.
It is an impressive and touching honor for the Springer family, whose roots in New Britain were steeped in the movement, George Springer Jr., the baseball player’s father, told The Herald.
“I knew the mayor (of Houston) had reached out to him, but when I found out yesterday that the other grand marshal would be John Lewis, I was just blown away,” the elder Springer said. “I grew up knowing who John Lewis was. He was one of the organizers of the 1963 march on Washington that my father attended.”
This year, Houston’s parade, dubbed “The Original MLK Jr. Birthday Parade,” will be co-hosted for the first time by the city of Houston and the Black Heritage Society. The parade is a 41-year tradition started by the late Ovide Duncantell, a longtime community advocate in the Texas city.
“The parade grand marshals are a testament to Dr. King’s life and legacy,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press release issued Monday. “Congressman Lewis considered Dr. King a friend and mentor, while George Springer is a champion and role model on and off the field.”
The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. Jan. 21 in downtown Houston. George Springer Jr. already has his plane ticket to see his son honor the contributions of King in front of the whole city of Houston.
“I absolutely plan on attending,” the older Springer said.
George Springer III, a first-round draft pick of the Astros in 2011, led the team to a championship in 2017. He was named World Series Most Valuable Player after hitting five home runs, tying a record shared by the Yankees’ Reggie Jackson and the Phillies’ Chase Utley.
He also hit the eventual game-winning home run in the 2018 All-Star Game.
Lewis is often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,” according to his biography on his congressional website. He has represented Georgia’s 5th U.S. House District since 1986. He organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn., and volunteered to participate in freedom rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South, his biography said.
Lewis was one of the organizers of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963 to highlight civil rights and economic equality.
The Springer family was well aware of Lewis’ historic and heroic acts thanks to George Springer Sr., who taught African American history and industrial arts at New Britain High School from 1959 to 1978, his son said.
“John Lewis risked his life on many occasions,” George Springer Jr. said. “To see that George is having this opportunity to be with him is just incredible. As soon as I learned yesterday, I booked my flight.”
Staff writer Brad Carroll contributed to this story.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.