WASHINGTON, D.C. - In observance of Black History Month, Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey (D- PA) is highlighting the work of five Black leaders in Pennsylvania who have demonstrated their deep commitment to service to their communities. One of the honorees is from Erie. Gary Horton, whose family has a long history of civic and community service in the Erie area, is one of the five honorees.  

“The city of Erie is blessed by Gary's work and those like him who have dedicated their lives to the city and its residents,” said Sen. Casey. “Gary Horton has truly been an inspiration in Erie and with him and those like him leading the charge, Erie residents can be optimistic in the belief that their future is bright.”  

Sen. Casey praised Horton's work in northwest PA. Horton said he was influenced to get involved from his parents, family and the works of Rev. Ernest Franklin Smith who was a believer in the transformative power of education. Horton founded the Urban Erie Economic Development Corporation which leads educational programs, job training programs, summer youth work program and self-help initiatives for young people and new Americans. He also served as presidents of the Erie branch of the NAACP. Horton also leads Erie's “Walking in Black History” where he takes Erie school children to historic sites of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the South.  

We spoke with Horton at the Capitol. He said it’s an honor to be recognized for his work.   

“If I could cut it into 1000 pieces, I would have a piece for all the people who have helped me along the way,” said Horton. “The trip to Alabama has helped me come back and be strong in my own town to be able to constructively campaign and fight for change through peaceful, nonviolent direct action as people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. championed. And so this is just about the highlight of my career.” 

During the ceremony, Horton was asked how he celebrates Black History and how others should celebrate Black History. He said to note people of color’s accomplishments make us a better country and makes Erie a better city and community.