Rep. Lewis in oldest King Day parade in Houston

HOUSTON (FOX 26) — A large crowd supported the 41st annual Original MLK Parade in downtown Houston on Monday.

The chilly air didn't keep cheerful Houstonians from lining the streets for the parade which began at 10 a.m. and ended at noon, honoring the life, legacy and birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Oh, this is awesome," said Houston Astros superstar outfielder George Springer. "It's a little cold, but I'm happy to be here."

Springer was the co-marshal of the parade along with civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

"It's an unbelievable honor to see him in person, so I'm humbled to be here," added Springer.

"It's appropriate that [John Lewis] be here, because he crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge with Dr. King," said Congressman Al Green who represents the 19th District of Texas. "He was there to go to jail. He made the sacrifices. Some of us are drinking from wells we did not dig."

Houston's Original MLK Parade is the oldest MLK parade in the U.S., founded in 1978, five years before President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill that made Martin Luther King Day a national holiday.

2019 is the first year that the Original MLK Parade has been officially sanctioned by the City of Houston, despite the fact that the MLK Grande Parade began at the same time on Monday in the same city.

"The turnout's been the biggest I've seen since I've been here," said Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo. "I think Mayor Turner's call for a unity and one official parade helped, and I'm hopeful in the future, we're going to live the dream and see one parade for the entire city."

The Original MLK Parade is organized by the Black Heritage Society. The 2019 theme hinged on the famous words of Dr. King: "The time is always right to do what is right."

"It's important to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, but it's also important for us to help others, because that's what his life was about," said U.S. Rep. Green. "So after the parade is over, let's get involved and make sure that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."

There were 170 floats and bands in the Original MLK Parade. 

Police did not report any arrests or injuries during the two-hour event that boasted a theme of unity and inclusion.