Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has chosen former Kentucky Secretary of Justice Ishmon Burks to be the 2013 recipient of the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award.

Burks is a retired army colonel who also served as the first African-American commissioner of the Kentucky State Police. In 2011, he served as interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department and as Fischer’s chief of public safety.

Burks says he is humbled by the mayor’s choice, and accepts the Freedom Award with a sense of gratitude.

“I wasn’t quite sure how to take it, but he said ‘I think you’re the man’ and I said mayor if you think so it’s fine with me. And so I was surprised by the whole thing,” he says.

Other recipients of the aware include public servants and civil rights leaders such as Lymon T. Johnson, state Rep. Darryl Owens and former state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers. Being among those names is a humbling experience says Burks, who is currently an assistant professor and academic coordinator of criminal justice at Jefferson Community and Technical College.

“I consider them to be giants in this area. Of course my fight’s been a little different. There’s has been more local and mine has been more global, spending most of my time in the Army for 28 years,” he says. “It’s a different fight, but still a fight at the same time. But for those people, I grew up knowing these men and women and for me I’m just really flattered to be mentioned in the same vein.”

Fischer will present Burks with the award at a January 27 ceremony at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall. The event is free and open to the public.