Unity Park

Unity Park opened in 2013 to celebrate the efforts of civil rights leaders and events in Oktibbeha County and the state of Mississippi.

Two Starkville women were announced Monday to be the 2020 Unity Park Honorees for their contributions to civil rights and equality during their lives.

Jeanne Marszalek, chair of the Unity Park Advisory Committee, said five nominations had been submitted by members of the community.

"The committee felt those who nominated the two women selected provided many more details that made their case," Marszalek said.

A civil rights advocate and Starkville native, Dorothy Bishop, who died in 2014 at 71, will be the first honoree celebrated next month.

"Dorothy was a civil rights activist for more than 50 years," Marszalek said. "She served as a youth advisor for Oktibbeha County's Youth NAACP, was the first female president of the county NAACP and in 1994 she received a Fannie Lou Hamer Award."

Bishop participated in marches for civil rights, worked during elections to help others vote and organized groups within Oktibbeha County to fight against discriminatory practices.

After a monument honoring Civil War soldiers was installed at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse, Bishop pushed for the creation of a memorial to honor civil rights leaders.

"Through her persistency, the Unity Park was created," Marszalek said.

Carole McReynolds Davis, who also died in 2014 at the age of 72, will be the second woman honored in January.

Davis was a Starkville icon best known for her art and the historic home on Louisville Street built by her grandfather that she restored and maintained until her death.

"Carole was a member of the first race relations team and was an advocate for a united Martin Luther King Day celebration," Marszalek said.

One of Davis' traditions was to unveil annual paintings depicting civil rights leaders at Sunday night church services.

"The person who nominated her said it best, ‘It was through Carole's artwork that she broke down racial barriers. Each of the portraits spoke of bringing value to and equalizing those in our community,'" Marszalek said.

A ceremony will be held on Jan. 20, 2020, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to celebrate Bishop and Davis. Family members will be invited to speak on the women's behalf as a plaque commemorating their efforts toward equality is placed alongside other honorees in Unity Park.

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