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55-year-old Marshall White Center facility gets send-off ahead of update

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 4, 2023
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Ron White addresses the crowd during a closing ceremony for the Marshall N. White Community Center in Ogden on Friday, June 2, 2023.
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A memorial to the late Marshall White is displayed at the Marshall N. White Community Center during a celebration of the facility held Friday, June 2, 2023.
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Betty Sawyer, president of the Ogden NAACP, speaks at the closing ceremony for the Marshall N. White Community Center's facility on Friday, June 2, 2023.
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Renderings of the new Marshall N. White Center are displayed in the lobby of the current facility in Ogden on Friday, June 2, 2023.

"It was his choice to be here," he said. "Ogden is a special place. It draws people. It grabs ahold of people and draws them in and says, 'I gotcha,'" Ron White, Marshall White's son, told the crowd of his father.

The future looks bright for the Marshall N. White Community Center's new facility.

But before that future can become a reality, the Ogden community took time to look back at the old facility and its namesake during a closing ceremony Friday evening that featured several dignitaries from city officials to those who have worked at and utilized the community center over the years.

"Today is really an opportunity to reminisce and look back at this facility," Ogden Recreation Manager Edd Bridge said.

Betty Sawyer, president of the NAACP's Ogden branch, spoke about her own experiences with the center -- dedicated in 1968 -- and its place in the community. She also took the opportunity to announce the creation of a scholarship fund in honor of the late Marshall White.

"We all share in a piece of this history, and that's what makes it so beautiful," she said. "Marshall White Center has been our safe place over the years. It has been that place where we made friends, build family, build community and we're just excited to be a part of this new legacy that we're all going to continue to work together to usher in."

Ogden Diversity Affairs Coordinator Linda Lartigue said the center has been crucial to the Ogden community ever since its inception.

"Over the years, the Marshall White Center has offered a wide range of classes such as piano, chess, dance, music and pottery classes. The commitment to fostering the talents and passions of our community -- particularly the youth -- while providing a safe space has been a focus for the city," she said.

William Lyons Jr., whose father had been a recreation director with the center, said the center fits in with the four things everyone needs -- good parents, good schools and teachers, a good spiritual life and "especially" recreation.

From there, a series of coaches and athletes discussed the role the center played in their lives. Basketball coach Kevin Green, in particular, kept his message simple. "We learned ball here and we had fun, I'm going to miss it," he said.

Gerod "Butch" Sawyer said that he hopes that the new center remains active and the safe space that it's been over the years.

The center's legacy will live on with the people who took and taught lessons, who made it a community beacon, while Ogden police chief Eric Young highlighted the man it was named for.

White was the first Black police officer killed in the line of duty in Utah and a former president of Ogden NAACP. Young lamented what had become of the facility, expressing hope that this changes with the new facility.

"It was painful for me to see the condition the center had fallen to because of the name that's on it," he said.

The evening closed with the words of Ron White, grateful for the reception and for the appreciation the community has for the MWC.

"The future is bright. I don't see a lot of young people in the audience ages 15-30. The last 30 years have been tough for the Marshall White Center, but the next 50 years, the future looks bright. We're going to grow, we're going to go, we're going to do and we're going to be a better place," Ron White said. "I have mixed emotions from the past going into he future, but I'm really happy for the youth and the future for this program, especially the Head-Start program and our daycare centers. It's going to make Marshall White's legacy live for a long, long time."

He said the new facility is only going to spread the legacy of his father even further.

"The legacy's here already, it's just going to be improved, it's going to be better, it's going to spread a little farther," he said. "It's like investing -- the more people in the pool, the better. When the tide rises, we all rise together, and when it falls, we all fall together. So goes the tide, so goes the rest of us. We're in this together."

The date for an official groundbreaking at the new facility will be announced in the coming weeks.

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