WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) – When people drive down Cleveland Avenue in Wichita Falls, they will be reminded of the service Leroy Cleaver left to the nation and community.
“We have to point this out, someone who has so many accolades,” said James Hicks, pastor of the Covenant Faith Center.
Leroy Cleveland served as pastor at the Jackson Memorial Church of God in Christ for 35 years located on Cleveland Avenue. Cleaver was a Tuskegee airman during World War II, the first black civilian pilot instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, and a prominent figure in Wichita Falls.
“He was one of those people you meet once in a lifetime. Even when she got the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. She said, I’m not thrilled with it because it’s been so long since I’ve done my job. It was nothing special. I just did my job,” Pastor Hicks said.
Hicks has found a way to keep the Cleaver legacy alive.
“He went and made a huge essential petition door-to-door all over that street of all those neighborhood property owners that were going to be affected. He even went far beyond the neighborhood and ended up with over 400 signatures both in that community and throughout the city,” said Fabian Medellin, planning manager for the City of Wichita Falls.
Councilor Larry Nelson said Cleaver was worth raising awareness of.
“In this way we will be aware of who we are and where we come from. One of the things I want to drive, which is one of the reasons Martin died for us, is our vote. Our voting rights and Cleaver were really strict on that, all his ancestry and everything,” said City of Wichita Falls Councilman Larry Nelson.
There was something about Cleaver that Hicks couldn’t let go.
“When you meet someone like that, you want to mark that occasion. Put a rock of remembrance right there and say that person is special and needs recognition,” Hicks added.
“It is also an opportunity for us to join the community and the memory of Pastor Cleaver so that we can carry his legacy from now on essentially and help unite that community and us around that memory,” Medellin explained.