The Daleville Christian Fellowship held its 26th Annual Peace Parade celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 25.
The event started with a march at 10 a.m. from the Advance Auto Parts in Daleville down to Daleville Christian Fellowship.
Preceding the march, a remembrance program was held. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Department of Public Safety Director Col. Charles R. Ward served as the guest speaker for the program.
“What you need to remember in the scripture is ‘keep your focus on Christ,’” Ward said. “Don’t let folks turn you around. Don’t let the sins of this world discourage you and grow weary because you’ve got to stay focused. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that; he was not going to be stopped. All of that group back then had that faith.”
Ward spoke to the faith of MLK taking him through the challenges of the South at that point in time as he struggled to achieve equal rights for all.
“He knew how the South was but because of his faith and him not quitting, these changes came about,” Ward said.
He talked about the resilience and the focus of the marchers who were assaulted on Bloody Sunday yet still came back for the proceeding marches.
“Go back to the basics that I told you, ‘Don’t lose focus,’ and ‘Don’t fight evil with evil,’” Ward said. “If they would have fought evil with evil, I don’t know where we would be at right now.”
Ward then spoke about how it is important for the congregation to take that lesson and apply it to their own lives. He used his life as an example. It started with growing up in Ozark and wanting to become a member of the fire department, which had no African American members at the time. At the time he turned 18, Ward was told there were no openings at the fire department so he was offered a dispatcher position at the police station instead.
“Six months later, they got an opening at the fire department and I went over to the fire department,” Ward said.
He was eventually promoted to shift supervisor at the department.
“I’m 20 years old supervising folks in their 40s and 50s—that’s God,” Ward said.
He said he was working a wreck at the department when he saw an African American state trooper pull up to the wreck.
“When I looked up and I saw that big, tall black trooper get out of that car and put that hat on, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Ward said.
Ward would then apply to ALEA in March and attended the academy the following February. He was assigned to Enterprise.
“I thought it was a joke at first and to be honest, it made a lot of other guys in the class mad how I got an assignment so close to home,” Ward said. “Again, they don’t know my God.”
Six months later, Ward had a new assignment even closer to home.
“Again, people don’t know my God,” Ward said.
After applying for and getting the job to be assigned in Eufaula, Ward came up for his sergeant promotion, which came with a surprise.
“Y’all don’t know my God,” Ward said. “They said, ‘We’re going to move you back to Dothan as sergeant.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ They said, ‘But you’re going to sergeant of both Dothan and Eufaula.’”
When he was up for lieutenant, the lieutenant in Dothan suddenly had an emergency and had to leave. This meant Ward got the promotion without having to move.
“I told y’all, God got this,” Ward said.
Ward would later make captain and when a new colonel took over Dothan, he was brought up to work in Montgomery. Ward’s house was outside the residency policy so he feared he’d have to move. While working in Montgomery, the colonel made him rewrite the residency policy. Ward made the policy say a trooper could live 30 miles outside the county line of the county he or she worked in, but his colonel told him to change it to 50 miles.
“My house was 47 miles from the Montgomery County line,” Ward said.
Ward decided to retire but after multiple other opportunities fell through, Ward pulled his retirement papers.
“I told my wife, ‘I think God is telling me to stay where I’m at,’” Ward said.
Two weeks after pulling his papers, he was promoted to chief over highway patrol.
About a year and half after that he was appointed acting director of the Safety Department. It was a position he didn’t want because the residency policy said he had to live in Montgomery to hold that position.
When newly appointed Gov. Kay Ivey, asked him to become permanent director, he let that qualm be known.
“She said, ‘You don’t have to move, we’ve changed that,’” Ward said.
He left the congregation with one final thought.
“Go back to (Dr.) Martin Luther King (Jr.), stay focused and depend on Jesus,” Ward said.