August 28, 2017:
Fifty four years after his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, the State of Georgia honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a statue on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. The 8 foot tall bronze statue stands atop a 36-inch pedestal made of Georgia granite. The King Memorial Statue stands near the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
During Monday’s unveiling ceremony, Dr. Bernice King said, “it is a glorious and grand day in the State of Georgia, and in the United States of America and all over the world.” The King Center CEO said “49 years ago when my father was assassinated, he was one of the most hated men in America, today he is one of the most loved men in the world.” She also paid homage to her mother Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who she said, with the support of her family and friends, “was responsible for ensuring that this nation would remember and institutionalize the legacy of this great man.”
Mayor Reed said, “I am proud to welcome this new monument memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his birthplace and the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, where every building, street and monument bearing his name should stand as a source of pride and excellence for our city.”
Governor Deal, who, in April 2014, signed HB 1080, which authorized the placement of the statue at the Georgia Capitol, called Dr. King’s legacy “one of hope”. Deal added, “The America we know is a better place because one man followed his conscience. Erecting a monument in his memory, both facing Liberty Plaza and on the grounds of the Capitol of his home state, is a fitting and long overdue honor.”
Calvin Smyre, the longtime State Representative, who championed the effort for 3 years, said of King, “As a Georgian and native son, Dr. King inspired our nation and the world with his message and vision. The King statue will inspire and give hope to generations to come.”
There was no mention during today’s ceremony of former State Representative Tyrone Brooks. During a 2015 interview Brooks told me about his extensive efforts to bring the King statue to fruition. Brooks was later convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to jail for a year and a day. He was recently freed.
Hundreds attended Monday’s unveiling, including other members of the King family, Dr. King’s sister Christine King Farris among them. Xernona Clayton, who worked with Dr. and Mrs. King was among Civil Rights Era activists at the statue unveiling. Members of the U.S. Congress were spotted among the hundreds in attendance, including Reps. David Scott and Sanford Bishop and Senators Johnnie Isakson, and Karen Handel. Others in attendance included former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador, Andrew Young, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, and candidate for Georgia Governor, former Atlanta State Representative Stacey Abrams. Other notables included members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and and a large entourage from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which Dr. King was a member.
Though he did not attend the capitol unveiling, Dr. Charles Steele Jr., President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) said in a statement, “The timing for today’s event coincided with the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech and not any recent events surrounding commemorative statues. The monuments throughout this country that honored men who sowed division and hatred should never have been erected. Whenever you have an action, there is always a reaction. We are so thankful that the reaction in Georgia has been positive and peaceful and not like what happened in Charlottesville.” The statement indicated that Steele was “in Washington, D.C., with social justice leaders at an event commemorating the “I Have a Dream” speech”.