Hundreds gathered in the Capitol rotunda Monday (1/21) for a ceremony celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Among those honored in his name were a founder of the Milwaukee voucher school movement and an advocate for unions and the working poor.
The decision to honor Dr. Howard Fuller comes in a year when Wisconsin Republicans are weighing an expansion of Milwaukee's private school voucher program to other cities. Fuller is a Professor at Marquette University. He was Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in the early 90s and helped get Milwaukee's private school vouchers program off the ground. Fuller said the problems faced by Milwaukee were felt throughout Wisconsin, “If you receive an award in the name of Martin Luther King, you cannot accept that award without recognizing that on this cold, bitter day in Wisconsin, there are people who are homeless, there are people without health care, there are people without jobs, there are children all over this state, particularly black and brown children who are not receiving an education.”
Also honored posthumously was Father James Groppi, who in 1969 organized a march of poor Milwaukee mothers to Madison to protest cuts to welfare. The group held a sit-down strike in the Wisconsin state Assembly. Groppi's widow, Margaret Rozga, directed her remarks at Governor Scott Walker, who was sitting just behind her, “As the widow of a man who, after we married, not only drove a bus but became the President of Local 998, Amalgamated Transit Union; as a person who remembers that Martin Luther King was killed while he was working to organize sanitation workers, I know that anyone who works to curtail union rights is not in the tradition of Martin Luther King.”
Rozga and Governor Walker shook hands after her speech. The governor delivered a proclamation honoring Dr. King, quoting from King as he told the crowd that hatred doesn't drive out hate, only love can do that.