November 2, 2017 was a day of remembering the life of Carol Jenkins-Davis.
November 2, 2017 also was a day of witnessing a family still grieving their heartbreaking loss after nearly 50 years; a family filled with enormous grace and dignity, warmth, kindness, strength, tremendous love and an inspiring spirit that filled our Council Chambers.
I was honored to host the Jenkins-Davis family as they visited us in Martinsville, some for the first time since their beloved daughter, sister, aunt and cousin’s murder in 1968.
I was pleased and proud to see so many of you at our remembrance event for Carol to unveil a memory stone in her honor. Some of you were living in Martinsville when her horrific murder happened; some of you moved here afterwards. But all of us undoubtedly were aware that on September 16, 1968, while innocently selling encyclopedias door-to-door in our city, Carol was viciously killed because of the color of her skin.
As I said in my remarks at the ceremony, her death makes no more sense today than it did nearly 50 years ago. The loss of such a young woman just starting to make her own way in this world, planning to finish her education and become a teacher is absolutely heartbreaking.
I’ve said it before, I will say it again: we here in Martinsville are profoundly, deeply sorry for what happened to Carol. We are equally sorry for the pain, sadness and grief that followed for her family and friends.
Our goal for our remembrance event was to first and foremost, show Carol’s family how much we care about Carol and all of them. Secondly, it was to partner with Rushville officials (Carol lived in Rushville) and host two back-to-back events, with each community honoring Carol in their own way. And thirdly, it was to bring Martinsville residents together to help heal the pain of the past and be able to move forward.
I hope and pray Carol’s family left Martinsville feeling our caring arms around them. From the comments shared with me by her family members, we accomplished that goal. One of her cousins from Louisiana said he is looking forward to returning to spend time here and learn more about our community. That was music to my ears.
Having much respect for Rushville Mayor Mike Pavey, I was so pleased to partner with him on our two events. Fire Chief Terry Anderson and City Councilor Chip Keller and I traveled to Rushville on November 1 to participate in their wonderful ceremony where they renamed their City park to the Carol Jenkins-Davis Community Park. The park is scheduled for a complete redesign to be a revitalized educational and recreational amenity to recognize Carol’s story and to teach future generations the value of inclusion and diversity.
In turn, Mayor Pavey, Director of Special Projects and Community Development Brian Sheehan, Parks Director Dan Burklow and Rush County Economic & Community Development Corporation Executive Director John McCane made the trip to Martinsville the next day. We were thrilled to have them with us.
And finally, bringing our residents together involved so many of you at the ceremony! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us. The event would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance from City Councilor Ben Merida who introduced our special guests as well as Chief Anderson and many firefighters, Police Chief Matt Long and our police officers, Kirsten Clayton in our Police Department and Public Works Director Craig DeMott. We also appreciated the help of Sadie Suter, Spencer Skaggs and Miah Ferran from the Mayor’s Youth Council who assisted with our programs and reception.
A word about our current police officers: it was hard for them to hear the view of some regarding how law enforcement officers in 1968 were thought to have handled Carol’s murder investigation. The officers on our force today are among the finest in Indiana. They are well-trained, highly-skilled and provide unflinching dedication to their jobs and to our community.
Special thanks to Hoosier Harvest Church Senior Pastor Chris Page. Pastor Page’s invocation and benediction brought tears to many in the crowd, including me. He spoke from the heart, as he always does and in doing so, added much to our ceremony.
Carol’s memory stone will be planted in our City Hall garden as soon as the weather permits and I hope you will view it whenever you visit City Hall. We want the memory stone to be a visible sign of our community honoring Carol while continuing to heal, find peace, strength and move forward. We gave her family a replica of the stone which reads:
In memory of Carol Jenkins-Davis: April 21, 1947 – September 16, 1968
Carol’s life had enormous value and promise. The Rushville and Martinsville communities have joined together to honor and recognize her family’s love.
May God bless Carol Jenkins-Davis and her amazing family. May God bless the City of Martinsville and all of you.
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Special thanks to the leadership at the Reporter-Times for giving their permission for these columns to be included in the City’s Web site.