Lawrence lost a special and talented individual with Tuesday's death of J.D. King. King had been in poor health in recent years, and - as is true in so many cases - it is unfortunate that many newer Lawrence residents did not get to know and see him in action when he was an enthusiastic and effective community leader.
The Arkansas native came to Lawrence after World War II, during which he served in the U.S. Army in the European theater and was taken prisoner by German troops.
After arriving in Lawrence, he first worked as a manager for the Commonwealth Theater company and was instrumental in desegregating Lawrence movie theaters. He later became associated with the Lawrence Sanitary Milk and Ice Cream Co. King and the late Simon Hurwitz, who owned Lawrence Sanitary, were dedicated to making Lawrence a better community. They gave their time, personal involvement, personal support and money to almost every conceivable community project. If there was something that would help Lawrence, King was first on the scene to offer his assistance.
He also was involved in politics, doing a superb job as chairman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee. He and the late Frank McDonald, his counterpart in the leadership of the county's Democrats, did an excellent job of encouraging residents to become interested in politics, register to vote and go to the polls. They had a genuine interest in politics in a good, positive way, not like today's political environment in which so many people are negative, bitter and mean-spirited in their behavior.
King was a strong supporter of Kansas University sports. He and Lawrence Sanitary provided jobs for many KU athletes and he had a particularly close relationship with former KU football coach Don Fambrough.
The city needs more individuals like King, who always seemed so optimistic and positive about the future. Politics also needs more J.D. Kings, who could express strong partisan feelings without being offensive, combative or negative.
King believed in good citizenship and, probably because of his experience as a soldier and prisoner during World War II, he was a patriot who believed Americans should exercise their right to vote and take far more interest in the welfare and protection of their democracy.
Individuals like King made a commitment to Lawrence, to help build it into a finer city. This was done not to put more money into their own pockets but rather with the idea that if something is good for Lawrence and I conduct myself and business in the right manner, it eventually also will be good for me.
Lawrence needs more individuals guided by this philosophy.