Morella, Sarbanes push for King memorial

April 05, 1995|By Capital News Service

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Constance Morella and Sen. Paul Sarbanes have joined forces with Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to build a monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington.

"I think it would be exceedingly appropriate to have this memorial in the nation's capital," said Ms. Morella, R-8th, Md.,

Ms. Morella and Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif., introduced a bill last month that would permit Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to construct a monument to King on federal land.

The bill, which has gained more than 60 co-sponsors in the House, also states that the fraternity would be solely responsible for funding the memorial and that no federal funds would be used for it.

Mr. Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced similar legislation in the Senate in February. His bill, co-sponsored by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., would authorize a King memorial in the District of Columbia or on surrounding federal lands.

"This memorial will be a simple but powerful tribute to the extraordinary life and achievements of Dr. King," Mr. Sarbanes said, adding that the monument would give proper recognition to King's two-pronged message of inclusion and nonviolent social change.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Rules and House Oversight committees, with action expected later this year, Ms. Morella and a Senate staffer said.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest predominantly African-American fraternity in the United States, began the drive for a memorial in 1984. One goal was to create a central location for commemorative activities on King's behalf, said George Sealey Jr., an Alpha Phi Alpha member and chairman of the King monument project.

Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights leader, supported the monument for the first time this year, Mr. Sealey and Ms. Morella said. Mrs. King could not be reached yesterday, the 27th anniversary of her husband's death.

A bill that would have authorized the use of federal land for the monument passed the Senate in 1992, Mr. Sarbanes said. It died in the House.

A previous impediment to passage has been a House rule that a person must be dead for 25 years before a monument can be constructed in his/her honor.

Mr. Sealey said he would like to see the monument near the east end of the Ellipse, close to the spot where King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech nearly 32 years ago.

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