Cleveland’s the Rev. Dr. Emmitt Theophilus Caviness, Pastor of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Cleveland’s own nationally known Civil Rights Crusader and Leader, was honored at the Severance Hall on Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Cleveland Orchestra’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert.
During these festivities, Dr. Caviness humbly accepted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award.
Dr. Caviness has not been silent over the years in respect to his voice nor his unrelenting service to God’s people. Whether in the pulpit preaching or in a classroom teaching, Dr. Caviness has been powerful and tenacious in his approach to biblical principles as well as to political premises serving the greater interest of his people.
History will record his participation, planning and direct involvement in some of Cleveland’s most historical events resulting in some of the City’s most memorable accomplishments.
The power and the presence of great men in the city have made Cleveland unique as well as distinguished from other cities. It is not often that we mention in our conversations the eminence of greatness among us, but how can we forget the power and the influence of the well honored and respected Dr. Otis Moss and the Dr. Emmitt Theophilus Caviness.
These two icons of prominence who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remain alive and well as servants of God as well as reminders of the power, presence and promises of God.
I honor one of these great men today, some will remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was brought to Cleveland by Dr. Caviness walking together through the streets of Cleveland, principled by a purpose that yet serves to encourage and inspire a movement that continues to serve, encourage and inspire others to decry racial injustice and insist on fairness and equality as well as peaceful progress in housing, work and politics.
In 1967, Dr. King and Dr. Caviness partnered to make Carl Stokes the first African American Mayor of a big U.S. City. Later, during the Glenville riot, Dr. Caviness walked the streets of Cleveland calming crowds and sheltering neighbors at the Church.
From 1956 to 1968, Dr. King rendered notable speeches at Glenville High School as well as at local historical Churches including the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church. Without question, Dr. Caviness has served Cleveland throughout the years with unflinching faith in his God and unyielding service to his community.
Certainly, Dr. Caviness has been recognized before. He has celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, both of his Church and certainly of his life, now 90 years of age. The honor given to him at the Cleveland Western Reserve Historical Museum and Severance Hall however, distinguishes itself as something very special in a very unique way.
These celebrations honor not only his life and his legacy, but also more specifically his life from another perspective. Now, available for viewing at the Western Reserve Historical Society, signs and displays that include a picture of Our beloved Publisher Don King, former City Council president George Forbes and our Honoree, back in the day suits and shoes that further add a special touch of elegance to the memoriam of a man on a life long mission from God.
God blessed the world with phenomenal men born 10 months apart in the persons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Rev. Dr. E.T. Caviness. With the ever-familiar mantra “if I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.”
Dr. Caviness has lived, is living and is yet serving in the pulpit with a Word for the folk in the pew as well as in the world with a Word for those seeking a better way. It is my honor to know him and love him, not only as a great man of God, but as a friend and a father figure, a man whose closer to me than a brother, most worthy of honor and distinction. Join me as I pray for and salute the service and the soul of a man sent from God to do his Will in a world that needs it now more than ever.