June 11, 2009 - Issue: Vol. 155, No. 87 — Daily Edition111th Congress (2009 - 2010) - 1st Session
RECOGNIZING THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF WATKINS BROTHERS MEMORIAL CHAPEL; Congressional Record Vol. 155, No. 87
(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 [www.gpo.gov] RECOGNIZING THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF WATKINS BROTHERS MEMORIAL CHAPEL ______ 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. ____________________