Congratulating Father Donald Mowery on Receiving the 2014 Be the Dream Mlk Legacy Awardby Representative Steve Cohen
Posted on 2014-01-16
in the house of representatives
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Father Donald
Mowery on receiving the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award. This
special award is given to those individuals whose lives have ``embodied
the spirit and legacy of service, sacrifice and hope'' that
characterized the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As an agent of
change during the Civil Rights Movement, it is fitting that this award
be bestowed upon Father Mowery in recognition of his accomplishments
Donald Mowery was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was brought up in a funeral home, which he had intended to make his life's work before being called to ministry. He attended school in Chattanooga before finishing college then seminary school at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. While studying at Yale, he worked with young people at St. Peter's Episcopal Church and upon completion, he was assigned to a parish in Nashville, Tennessee, where he continued this important work. In Nashville, he became involved with the police department, holding services for the officers during the shift changes on Saturdays. This garnered him recognition from his Bishop and the Mayor of Nashville.
In 1963, Father Mowery received an invitation from the Bishop to continue his work with young people and the police department at St. Mary's Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee. He joined Youth Service and began working with kids from different social and economic backgrounds, taking them on camping, boating, fishing and basketball trips in parks around the city. In 1968, following the assassination of Dr. King, Father Mowery received a warning that the parks would not be safe to conduct his program out of fear that he or one of the kids could be hurt among the unrest. He was advised to end the program but for Father Mowery, this only underscored the importance of the youth program.
Determined to keep the program open, Father Mowery appealed to the Navy base in Millington, Tennessee to use its facilities. Although his proposal was initially turned down, over the course of a weekend, the Navy reversed its decision and became a large supporter of the program. The Navy provided food assistance, shirts for the kids and exposure to military training techniques, which would become the first military youth training program. The program was such a success that the Department of Defense invited Father Mowery to Washington, D.C. to discuss starting 125 similar programs on military bases across the country. This led to the establishment of the national Youth Service USA.
Father Mowery's Memphis-based Youth Service and the Bridge Builders program, founded by Becky Wilson, joined to become BRIDGES in 1996. Today, BRIDGES is considered the ``premier youth organization in the Memphis area.'' There is no doubt that Father Mowery's work is worthy of this award named after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Speaker, I ask all of my colleagues to join me in congratulating Father Donald Mowery on being awarded the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award.