For years, Pastor Emeritus Happy Watkins has shared Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of hope and perseverance with countless people. The local pastor has traveled all over the Inland Northwest sharing the words of the late civil rights activist and a few of his own.
Watkins admits he was a bit apprehensive about going to Spokane when he first got his orders in 1961. The New York native was training in the Air Force in San Antonio, TX when he got the news.
“I was cheering and greeting everybody with high fives and low fours because I thought I was going to Spokane D.C,” Watkins laughed.
Watkins quickly learned there was no such thing. He said his training officer started telling him about his soon-to-be new residence.
“He went on and he started talking about severe winters, cowboys and Indians, stage coach, polar bears, and grizzlies and I started crying. I was distraught. I didn’t think a place like this existed,” Watkins said.
But this mysterious Northwest city is where he would find the love of his life Etta. They met at a party in 1962.
“I saw him, he didn’t say a word, and he just stood against a wall grinning, as everyone knows he’s got a beautiful smile,” Etta said.
Admittedly, Watkins was pretty shy around his future wife, but they eventually hit it off. They got married in August 1963 and went on to have four sons.
And when his boys got older, Watkins took notice of how African America youth were being treated in Spokane.
“There was a lot of misunderstanding, name calling, some racial stuff, and so I really got involved not just for my four sons, but kids of color, and just children to give them a better understanding of what it is to be a minority in this great city of Spokane,” Watkins said.
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