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SELMA— In recognition of his many years as a public servant, educator and champion of civil rights, Mack Sowell has been named grand marshal of the 44th annual Selma Railroad Days parade set for downtown Selma at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday.
Sowell was the Selma Railroad Days planning committee’s unanimous choice for the honor.
“Dr. Sowell has been instrumental in Johnston County for a very long time and it is with great pleasure we give recognition to such an outstanding person in our own community,” said committee chairman Billy Roach. “The committee could not be happier that Dr. Sowell has accepted this honor.”
CIVIL RIGHTS LEGACY
Mack Junior Sowell is married to the former Mary E. Womack and they are the parents of three adult children; Malcolm Dubois (Marie), Reuben Daniel (Leslie) and Stacey Danette. They have seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Sowell is pastor of the House of Prayer in Clayton where he and first lady Mary Sowell have served for more than 30 years.
He also serves as a volunteer evangelist at the Johnston Correctional Institution and has represented the correctional region in the N.C. Volunteer of the Year competition.
Sowell started school at age 4, graduated as valedictorian at age 16 and was accepted to Shaw University, graduating in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in French.
He pursued further studies at North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University.
Sowell signed his first professional contract on the steps of the then-Raleigh Memorial Auditorium to teach at Richard B. Harrison High School in Selma, where he remained for six years and is still serving the alumni body as adviser.
Sowell organized the community in voter registration drives in 1968 and was the first African American city councilman in Johnston County since Reconstruction.
He was one of the civil rights leaders jailed for picketing for African American public accommodations in the 1960s.
AWARDS AND HONORS
In 1999, Sowell received the Making a Difference Award from the Stuart, Florida, law firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, Watson and Superando.
In February 2000, the National Association for Equal Opportunities in Higher Education honored Sowell as a distinguished alumnus of Shaw University. In November 2000, Shaw awarded Sowell the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
In January 2010, Sowell was inducted into the Raleigh-Wake Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame for his leadership and commitment to Shaw University.
Upon retiring from Shaw after serving for 39 ½ years, Sowell wanted to leave a lasting legacy to commemorate his time at the university. With contributions from the Shaw faculty, staff, alumni, friends and family, the Mack Junior Sowell Endowed Scholarship was established in June 2010.
From 2012 to 2014, Sowell served as president of the National Association of Shaw University’s Raleigh-Wake Chapter and president of Shaw’s national alumni association. He was elected to the Shaw University Board of Trustees.
“I am very pleased and proud to receive this honor of serving as grand marshal of the Railroad Days parade,” said Sowell. “It makes me think that some thought by a person or persons for something I had done along the way caused this to happen and I am very delighted to represent the town of Selma in this way.”
RAILROAD DAYS FESTIVAL
The Selma Railroad Days Festival is held in downtown Selma the first weekend in October each year.
Festivities begin Friday with a model train display at the town’s historic Union Depot from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Selma Firefighters Association barbecue cook-off begins at 5 p.m. on the Selma Fire Department grounds.
The corner of Webb and Waddell streets near the firehouse will host the Chew Chew Food Truck Rodeo from 5-9 p.m. Friday with live music from She’s Buyin’. A beer garden will also be available.
On Saturday, barbecue cook-off judging begins at 7 a.m. with plates available for sale immediately after the judging. The Selma Railroad Run presented by the My Kid’s Club of Johnston County follows at 8:30 and the Neuse River Model Train Club display starts at 9.
Vendor booths are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also at 10, the kids’ zone at the corner of Railroad and Raiford streets opens and the mascot race will be held in front of Selma Town Hall on Raiford Street.
The parade begins at 10:30 followed by Railroad Days Festival opening ceremonies at noon on the main stage. Two stages will feature live entertainment from 12:30-5 p.m.
The Rudy Theater will host showings of the Country Music Jubilee at 12:45 and 6:45 p.m.
For more information, visit www.selma-nc.com/railroad-days-festival or call the Selma Parks and Recreation Department at 919-975-1411.