Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

King statue unveiled at the capitol, 49 years after his death

When the funeral cortege of Martin Luther King Jr. passed near the Georgia state capitol in 1968, the state’s segregationist governor, Lester Maddox, refused to acknowledge the event in any way, even to the point of making sure the flags on the building were not lowered to half-staff.

Forty-nine years later, the scene was much different.MLKstatue

On Monday, a statue of the assassinated civil rights leader was finally unveiled on those same capitol grounds once controlled by white supremacists like Maddox. On a cool, grey morning, with the wind whipping back and forth, King had finally come home.

Martin Dawe has sculpted an eight-foot bronze statue of King based on a photograph that shows him leaving a courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1956 bus boycotts. With an overcoat draped over the left arm, the statue of King is striding into history.

Ironically, his statue was erected at that moment in American history when the country is wracked by controversy over whether to take down monuments honoring the Confederate generals and soldiers who fought to preserve slavery.

“This day is no accident,” said King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King. “It had to happen on this day, at this time.”

“This statue provides a sense of hope to a nation that is in turmoil once again,” she said.

As King’s likeness was officially unveiled before an audience of several hundred people, left unmentioned was the fact that there is still a statue on the capitol grounds of John B. Gordon, a Confederate general and one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan. There is also a statue of Richard B. Russell, a racist senator who led a filibuster against passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Those inconvenient facts didn’t seem to matter to the officials who spoke at the King ceremony.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed noted the long time that King’s supporters had to wait before state officials finally agreed to place his statue at the capitol.

King used to say that the word “wait” usually meant “never,” Reed recounted, but with the statue in place, “that never has become now.”

“This day took much too long to get here,” agreed House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “We cannot reclaim or relive those days, but we can learn from and enjoy them.”:

State Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who brokered the complex arrangements that resulted in the statue being produced, noted that King’s monument was being unveiled on the 54th anniversary of his “I have a dream” speech in 1963 at the March on Washington.

“Today is a defining moment in our state’s history,” Smyre said. “Let’s not squander, but take advantage of that moment.”

The new statue faces east so that it will “see the dawn of every new day in Georgia,” as Ralston put it. It also overlooks the neighborhood where King was born and raised, a major intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Liberty Plaza.

“There is God in that,” Reed observed.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

Tags: Martin Luther King statue

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