Sarah Stevenson addresses a Charlotte Civic Center crowd of about 1,000 for the annual MLK Day Celebration. At left is keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm. At right is broadcaster Ken Koontz, who emceed the event sponsored in part by WBTV.

Jan. 15, 1982

One of the key turns in an ever-changing Charlotte celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day occurred on this day in 1982. And one of the architects of that turn took time out in 2022 to piece together a retrospective of the 1982 MLK Day Observance.

Ken Koontz used clippings, photos and his own reflections in the material below. He was emcee of an evening event at the Charlotte Civic Center headlined by U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm. Sarah Stevenson was among the Charlotte leaders who spoke. Below Koontz’s retrospective are some photos that Stevenson kept from the event.

Chisholm, an outspoken activist for human rights, in 1968 was the first African American woman to serve in Congress, and in 1972 was the first woman and African American to seek the presidential nomination.

Koontz, among the first African-American reporters in Charlotte’s broadcast arena, was hired by WBTV in 1969. He reported and also anchored broadcasts for years, and was the station’s community affairs director at his departure in 1983. It was in that position that he had helped turn the 1982 MLK celebration into a collaborative event with the city’s Community Relations Committee.

Among the people involved that year was Stevenson, who was then a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board. She was also chair of WBTV’s Black Advisory Council.

Amid the reportage below and Koontz’s memorabilia from a long career, Koontz reflects on progress made toward equality, and the work that remains.

“Yes, some strides have been made,” Koontz wrote. “But in reality, the struggle is still seeking achievement of things Martin long ago identified in his dream. Wake up and fight!

Koontz’s retrospective is published here with the author’s permission.




Among Sarah Stevenson’s photo collections are original prints of WBTV pictures from the 1982 MLK celebration.


Part of the opening procession at the Civic Center. Behind Stevenson is Charlotte Mayor Eddie Knox.


U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm. Clapping at right is Sarah Stevenson. Clapping at left is Bishop Joseph H. Sherman.


Mecklenburg Commissioners Chairman Tom Ray welcomes Rep. Chisholm.


Charlotte Mayor Eddie Knox, right, at the podium with Rep. Shirley Chisholm as Sarah Stevenson applauds at left.


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The clipping below appeared in the Charlotte Observer on Jan. 16, 1982.