Plan to build King memorial on Mall gets Senate's OK Proposal heads next to White House

June 27, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Senate has unanimously approved a measure to allow construction of a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the national Mall, among memorials dedicated to American presidents and U.S. veterans.

The memorial "will stand as a tribute to what Martin Luther King Jr. represented, which, in my judgment, was a commitment to achieving change through nonviolence," Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who sponsored the legislation with Republican Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, said before passage of the measure late Thursday.

The House passed an identical bill Monday, sponsored by Reps. Constance A. Morella, a Maryland Republican, and Julian C. Dixon, a California Democrat.

President Clinton is expected to sign it into law.

The King memorial would allow the civil rights leader to join a select group of Americans, including Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, to be recognized on the Mall.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the Mall's western end, King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech before a crowd of 100,000 people in 1963.

That speech helped spur passage of a series of landmark civil rights laws and is considered one of the leading examples of American oratory this century.

King was killed by a sniper's bullet five years later.

"I was at the Reflecting Pool the day he gave the 'I Have a Dream' speech," Sarbanes said in remarks on the Senate floor.

"That speech had a tremendous effect on American society then, and continues to have a tremendous impact on us today."

Passage of the legislation is the latest step toward the memorial's realization.

Two years ago, Congress authorized Alpha Phi Alpha, a national black fraternity, to raise money and plan the design for a King memorial on federal land in Washington. The National Capital Memorial Commission and the Department of the Interior have recommended placing it on or near the Mall.

The Mall area is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, the Capitol, Independence Avenue and the Potomac River.

The memorial commission and the National Commission on Fine Arts are jointly responsible for reviewing proposed sites and designs for the memorial.

Pub Date: 6/27/98

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