A plan to put Martin Luther King Jr.’s statue on the statehouse grounds got a boost Monday when a new sculptor was tapped to honor the civil rights icon at the Gold Dome.
Gov. Nathan Deal and state Rep. Calvin Smyre said Atlanta artist Martin Dawe was selected to create the King statue. Dawe and his apprentices have worked on more than 30 large-scale public art installations.
Deal first announced the plans to honor the civil rights legend at the state Capitol in January 2015, but the plans stalled over negotiations with the King estate. They’ve been in limbo since July 2015 when the original sculptor, Andy Davis, died after his motorcycle was hit by a pickup truck.
Smyre, the longest serving legislator in the statehouse, has acted as a liaison between state politicians and the King family through the negotiations. He said he’s confident the statue can be finished by early 2017. The statue is expected to cost between $100,000 and $300,000, all to be raised by private donations.
“It is now time for us as a state to make this a reality,” Smyre said. “Naming a new sculptor is a major step in in this historic project. I look forward to working with all stakeholders as we undertake the statue’s design, likeness and the private fundraising effort.”
The move is wrapped in political symbolism. King’s physical presence at the statehouse is now limited to an oil portrait that’s flanked by a biographical display. After Deal signed an order in 2013 to remove a statue of Tom Watson, a segregationist U.S. Senator known for his racist attacks on blacks, several Democratic leaders pushed him to replace it with a statue of King.
It’s unclear exactly where the King statue will stand, but a likely spot could be the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Capitol Avenue, a short walk from the new Liberty Plaza.
Another high-profile project to place a King memorial on top of Stone Mountain faces an uncertain future amid objections from both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.