Special Photo. The Oxford City Council selected residents Dr. Melvin and Gussie Baker as this year's grand marshals for the Oxford Fourth of July parade. The couple will ride in the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Monday and follows a route around Haygood, West Bonnell, Wesley and Emory streets.
OXFORD -- Lifelong Newton County residents Melvin and Gussie Baker finally will get to participate in something they've been onlookers of for many years.
The Oxford City Council recently voted in the Bakers as the grand marshals for this year's Fourth of July parade in town. In the past, the honor was called Citizens of the Year, but now the city has opted for a new name for the same honor.
"Dr. Melvin and Gussie Baker are very active in this community," said council member Hoyt Oliver, who served on a committee with fellow council member George Holt to nominate the Bakers.
The Bakers were born and raised in Newton County and have lived in Oxford for about 35 years. They have three sons and six grandchildren.
"It's nice and quiet and peaceful," Gussie said of their hometown.
Her husband said he likes how Oxford is mostly residential with little commercial in town.
"We like living in a small town," he said. "It's a nice place to raise a family."
Gussie once served on the Oxford Planning Commission, and she also has volunteered at Newton Medical Center and with Newton County Senior Services. Now she volunteers with CASA, the Washington Street Community Center, the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter in Covington and at St. Paul AME Church in Covington.
Melvin has operated a general dentistry practice in Covington since 1976. He also is a board member for the Washington Street Community Center and at Newton Medical Center, in addition to playing the trumpet in the Newton County Community Band.
Earlier this year, he received the R.O. Arnold Award from the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, which recognizes lifetime community involvement and achievement.
"This is my year, I guess," Melvin said about the honors he's received.
Last year, he received the MLK I Have a Dream Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee.
Still, he was surprised that City Council members wanted to recognize him and his wife at the parade.
"I figured it must be some mistake," he said. "I was surprised, and I'm honored. ... People don't have to think of you, so it's always reassuring to get something like this."
Usually, the Bakers bring some lawn chairs down to the street to watch the parade with their family, so they are excited about being a part of it this year.
"It brings unity to the community," Gussie said about the parade.
The Oxford Fourth of July parade starts at 10 a.m. Monday and follows a route around Haygood, West Bonnell, Wesley and Emory streets.