OGDEN, Utah (KUTV) — Concerns over the future of Ogden's historic community center remain.
Considered by many to be a community “jewel” in Ogden the 50-year-old Marshall N. White community center now faces a one-two punch in lack of enough funding to fight against deterioration.
Sarah McClellan, Ogden’s local historian, said it’s the only public building in the state of Utah named after a Black man.
Gerod Sawyer, longtime Ogden resident, once worked as the Director of the Marshall White Community Center for almost 20 years.
Sawyer said if you ask anyone around central Ogden, “They can tell youMarshall White Center, wow, I can remember all the great things we had here. So you know it’s history."
He’s affectionately known as ‘Mr. Butch’ and has worn many hats while working at the community center.
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Mr. Butch took up the role of being a father figure to life coach in the community. As the director one of his responsibilities included handling money matters for the center.
“Year after year in my 20 something years, we were tasked to submit capital funding or improvements for replacements. It was my responsibility as the building deteriorated or got worn down or things got broken, we would be setting them up to be replaced.”
But year after year he would get less funding. Money seemed to dry out like the center’s old pool, which is no longer in use.
And that felt like repeated punches for Mr. Butch, the staff and kids who used the facility. The center’s history commands heavy weight respect from young and old.
“It was a code just because everybody who had something to do with the Marshall White Center knew why it was here, knew what it was all about and so they respected that,” Sawyer said.
The center honors the late Marshall N. White. The first Black police officer killed in the line of duty in Utah back in 1963.
The facility provides a variety of academic and sports programs, with boxing being one of the most popular.
It’s was a favorite sport of the late police officer White.
Sawyer said young children could participate.
“We use to match them up at about 10 or 11 years old,” he said.
Parents and other supporters would attend boxing matches of the kids and teens and literally pack out the center.
For spectators watching the little kids participate, it would be a humorous activity to watch. Even the funny moments were all tools for Mr. Butch and others would use to help kids learn how face the "weight" of the world and fight through life’s challenges.
He wants city leaders to not overlook the center and the community it serves.
“You need to have this facility taken care of. There are people, who are paying their taxes. At some point you got to stop being the overseer and recognize that these are taxpayers that need to get some things for their money," Sawyer said.
Some community organizers say talks are underway to figure out the next steps to take. Possible options would be preserving the name and facility or move the name of the center to a different and newer building in Ogden.