ORLANDO, Fla. – On the day we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., community leaders also recognized a Central Florida legend: Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy.
Kennedy changed the course of local history when he was elected to the Orlando city council in 1973.
On Monday, the 29th annual prayer breakfast highlighted the impact and values he brought to the community, which mirrored King’s vision.
“This is more than just about a day and there’s more than just about a prayer breakfast, it really is all about service and it’s a call to our entire community not just one day, but throughout the year,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
The civil rights pioneer received support from voters all over the city and was re-elected in 1976 with 78% of the vote, the largest percentage in Orlando's history.
“What I learned from Pappy Kennedy was to really to stay focused and to persevere and not be distracted sometimes by small failures but look to the bigger picture for victory,” Demings said.
Kennedy’s great-grandson, Daniel Kennedy, said he is spreading the message of giving back, just like his great-grandfather did decades ago.
"I believe it was bred inside of me to join public service and be in public service and I live in the D.C. area and work for the federal government and I'm all about giving," he said.
An advocate of higher education, Kennedy was the organizer of the Orlando Negro Chamber of Commerce and president of the Jones High School Parent-Teacher Association.
Kennedy died in 2000 at the age 86.