The city of Denison celebrated the legacies of both a national leader and a community leader this weekend: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jo Ann Perkins.

Following $50,000 in improvements to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, city officials and residents gathered at the seven-acre space Saturday morning for a re-dedication ceremony. Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the city had intended to host the ceremony roughly a year ago, but each time the event was planned, poor weather got in the way.

‘Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘No person has the right to rain on your dreams,’” Rex said. “I’m glad that includes Mother Nature, at least for today.”

Denison Mayor Janet Gott spoke about the life and lessons of the late civil rights icon and said the nation owed him much for his efforts in the 1960s to achieve equality and for his championing of non-violent protest.

“Dr. King represented what was good in mankind,” Gott said. “To have this park named in his honor is a true blessing to our community.”

City officials also used the ceremony to celebrate the work of the late Jo Ann Perkins, who worked with numerous area organizations, including the Grayson County NAACP, the Boys and Girls Club and Keep Denison Beautiful before her death in 2013. To honor her contributions, the city announced its plan to rename North 7th Ave. The street will now be called Jo Ann Perkins Ave.

Family members were on hand to accept the official street sign as a gift.

“Jo Ann Perkins lived a life of service to God, to her family and to our community,” Gott said. “If she was needed, she came. Where she could serve, she did. And always with grace and joy. She made her mark on our community and today we want to leave a permanent reminder to commemorate her life.”

Perkins’s children, Steven Beamon and Joyce Ann Beamon, said their mother would have been grateful for the recognition, but she would have been even prouder to see younger generations continuing King’s legacy and her own.

“Martin Luther King Jr was a giant,” Steven Beamon said. “My mom was a giant in her own way, but she stood on his shoulders. “Now, we stand on her shoulders and someday our kids will stand our shoulders.”

Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at