(Extensions of Remarks - June 11, 2009)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1377]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                          HON. EMANUEL CLEAVER

                              of missouri

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, June 11, 2009

  Mr. CLEAVER. Madam Speaker, I proudly rise today in recognition of 
the 100th anniversary of Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel, the oldest 
African-American owned business of Missouri's Fifth Congressional 
District, which I am honored to represent. The Watkins Brothers 
Memorial Chapel will celebrate its centennial milestone beginning this 
weekend on Saturday, June 13th, when they will have the first series of 
events dedicated to the great service this business has bestowed upon 
Missouri's Fifth Congressional District. I am privileged to have been 
asked to partake in these celebrations.
  The Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel has been an influential and 
unwavering force since founders John ``J.T.'' and Theron ``T.B.'' 
Watkins first opened the chapel's doors in spring of 1909. After John's 
premature death, Theron remained determined to carry on the business 
and the vision that he and his brother had worked so hard to make a 
reality. The Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel has now seen five 
generations of Watkins run the family business. The chapel is known 
throughout the greater Kansas City metropolitan area for its excellent 
service and the high level of care and concern it affords both the 
families and the individuals involved.
  The Watkins family has been highly influential in the arena of Kansas 
City politics. Since the beginning, Theron was very involved in 
neighborhood development; so much so that there is now an important 
housing project in Kansas City named in his honor. From 1941 to 1948, 
Theron sat on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. The story 
of Theron filling up one of his funeral cars with coal and delivering 
the coal to families in desperate need during the peak of the Great 
Depression signifies his deep commitment to those around him. His 
heightened awareness of the needs of others led him to encourage his 
son, Bruce Watkins, Sr., to pursue a career in service and politics.
  Bruce Watkins, Sr. spent most of his adult life relentlessly pursuing 
the greater good through political service. He was one of the co-
founders of Freedom Incorporated, an African-American political 
organization that worked to increase their community's influence by 
generating votes for candidates they felt would best empower African-
Americans. Bruce Watkins, Sr. was also one of the first two African-
Americans elected in 1963 to serve on Kansas City's City Council. In 
1979, he became the first African-American councilperson to run for 
mayor of Kansas City. Though he lost, his progressive views of African-
American leadership and political influence endured. His legacy lives 
on in the form of Bruce Watkins Drive, a 10.2 mile long stretch of 
highway that connects the southern, suburban part of Kansas City to its 
northern, urban counterpart.
  Throughout the years, the Watkins family has remained active in the 
Kansas City community. Working alongside the CODA Jazz Fund, the 
Watkins family provides financial assistance for dignified funeral 
services to jazz musicians who have passed. Individual members of the 
family are involved in organizations ranging from the Mutual Musicians 
Fund to the Boys and Girls Club.
  The Watkins family has remained true to their philosophy and goal 
``to serve humanity, persons of all faiths, under all circumstances, 
with dignity, respect, and understanding, with attention to he needs 
and desires of each family.''
  Considering their tremendous contribution to Missouri's Fifth 
Congressional District and surrounding areas, it is an honor and a 
privilege to recognize the Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel and the 
Watkins family for their one hundred years of excellent service to the 
Kansas City area. Madam Speaker, please join me in celebrating and 
expressing our gratitude to this family and their incredible dedication 
to both their business and their community. The African-American 
community has long benefitted from figures such as Theron Watkins, 
Bruce Watkins, Sr., and the many other members of the Watkins family. 
Due to their unyielding persistence, they helped change the reality of 
African-Americans' political power and influence. The Watkins family is 
one to revere and respect, and they truly are role models that the 
Missouri Fifth Congressional District is proud to call our own.