ATLANTA - A statue paying tribute to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has been installed on the state Capitol grounds in Atlanta.
The statue's unveiling Monday came more than three years after Georgia lawmakers endorsed the project. A replica of the nation's Liberty Bell tolled three times before the 8-foot (2.44-meter) bronze statue was unveiled on the 54th anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech at the march on Washington.
King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, said her father gave the nation a sense of hope in a time of turmoil, and his statue can serve a similar purpose today.
She and other members of the slain civil rights leader's family were on hand for the ceremony, along with Gov. Nathan Deal and many Georgia state's political leaders.
"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,” said Reed.
“Dr. King’s legacy is one of hope. He gave, and continues to give, men and women a reason to believe and to dream. He expanded the aspirations of future generations," Governor Deal said. "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. Today is an historic occasion, one made possible through the vision, cooperation and collaboration of many."
Getting to this point was a three-year struggle over multiple hurdles. Officials had to negotiate with King's family for the right to use his image. Then an artist was selected for the project, only to be killed in a motorcycle accident. After a lengthy screening, sculptor Martin Dawe was chosen to replace him.
Then came the artistic struggle.
Dawe knew other tributes to King had been criticized and he set one goal: Make the 8-foot (2.44-meter) statue look like the man.
Folks visiting the King Center Sunday said with recent violent attacks and some Confederate monuments being removed, the timing of the statue could not be more appropriate.
The statue stands at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It was purposely placed at that location so that it faces the King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Auburn area, where the reverend was born, preached and marched.
The event was open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.