As a boy, the Rev. Bill Dulin would play baseball in South Park. A quintessential 1950s drugstore was nearby and served as a place to get out of the heat and buy a refreshment between games. One day, Dulin ventured into “Round the Corner Drugstore,” intending to buy a dime cola to go. But after several minutes of trying to get the waitress’s attention, Dulin realized she was intentionally ignoring him. So he gave his dime to a friend and asked him to get the drink. When the waitress served the cola, Dulin’s friend promptly handed it over to him.
“That waitress’s face turned beet red,” says Dulin. “She did not want to serve me, even though my dime was as good as anyone else’s.”
That was in the late ’50s in Lawrence, and Dulin, now the pastor at Calvary Church of God in Christ, has seen a lot of time go by since then. He’s also been an intentional force in the shaping of that history, mostly through his work with the Ecumenical Fellowship, a coalition of African-American churches in Lawrence. a
In 1986, when Martin Luther King Day was first observed as a national holiday, many state and local governments were reticent to observe the holiday. Dulin spearheaded a weekend of activities to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, with a rally at Central Junior High, a gospel music concert and a banquet. Gene Budig, then Kansas University chancellor, was a speaker.
Dulin’s efforts with the community for recognizing Martin Luther King Day as a holiday opened the doors for institutions to recognize it as well. The Lawrence school district started a program for school children to learn about and recognize the holiday. The gospel music concert was opened to be performed by a community choir. And the Jayhawk Rotary Club now hosts a breakfast as the commemoration service.
But there have been battles along the way in keeping the Martin Luther Day activities centered around the original vision of the Ecumenical Fellowship.
Dulin says, “At one time there was a group of county commissioners who wanted to dictate who should be on the planning committee, including one who wanted to pull the funding on the activities. Later, that one commissioner sent us a personal check to support our efforts, but we returned the check. If he couldn’t support us publicly, then we didn’t want money through the back way.”
Dulin has been at Calvary Church of God in Christ since 1982. The congregation numbers around 30. Dulin also handcrafts custom pieces of wood for the church building. And he continues to look for ways to be involved in the community, but on his terms.
“I don’t want to be a figurehead — I don’t agree with that. If I’m going to serve on a committee, I want to serve with the same voice as anyone else, not just to add a little color to the group. I think you got to have integrity, otherwise it don’t amount to much.”