Statue of Martin Luther King Jr. ’48 Graces the Grounds of the State CapitolDate Released: August 29, 2017
By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
A King now majestically stands on the Georgia State Capitol grounds, where Confederate monuments are plentiful.
About a mile from where he attended Morehouse College, the late Martin Luther King Jr. ’48 has now gone where no other African American has: honored as a statue on the Capitol grounds, overlooking a street named after him and across the street from, appropriately, Liberty Plaza.
In a ceremony held on Monday, Aug. 28—exactly 54 years from the day that he delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington—hundreds gathered at the Georgia State Capitol to celebrate the unveiling of the King statue.
“Our actions here today symbolize the evolved mindset of our state as we continue to reconcile our history and our hearts,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
The ceremony had a big Morehouse presence. King’s Morehouse brother, music professor Timothy Miller ’03, opened the ceremony by singing “Georgia On My Mind,” popularized by the namesake of the building Miller teaches in, Ray Charles. And the invocation was delivered by Lawrence E. Carter Sr., dean of Morehouse’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. Also in attendance was the Rev. Raphael Warnock ’91, pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church that King once led.
The confluence of the unveiling on this historic day during a period in which issues of race and discrimination are a heightened topic, was no accident, said King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King.
“As many people in the nation are removing and taking down Confederate monuments, it’s appropriate today in the state of Georgia, which was once a Confederate state, that we are unveiling a statue of a man who represents liberty, justice, freedom, righteousness, and equality,” said King. “And in doing so, it is my hope and my prayer that on this day, all across this nation, that conversations will begin on the appropriate ways to represent this nation in our public spaces.
“This day is no accident,” she stated. “It had to happen on this day, at this time, with everything that’s happening in this nation because, once again, Martin Luther King Jr., standing erected, is provided a sense of direction as we deal with the current controversial climate.”
The King statue was a bipartisan effort, with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signing legislation in 2015 to erect the first statue on the Capitol grounds in two decades. Rep. Calvin Smyre championed the effort, as he worked with the King family and state leaders to bring the project to completion.
“Today is a shining and joyous and historic day in the history of the state of Georgia,” Smyre said. “As a Georgian and a native son, Dr. King inspired our nation and the world with his message and vision. He was such an inspirational leader.”
State politicians said the building of the statue and the unveiling during the current racial climate should send a positive message across the country.
“We have the responsibility and the duty to seek equality and justice,” said Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston. “We are charged by our creator to strive for righteousness… “It is so fitting that Dr. King’s statue faces the east. This statue will see the dawn of every new day in Georgia, and it will stand watch as we continue to strive for the righteousness that each and every Georgian deserves.”
The Capitol building in Georgia is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the primary office building of the governor and his staff. It also houses the chambers of the Georgia General Assembly, which meets annually from January to April.
Last Modified: August 29, 2017, 18:08 PM, by: Kara Walker