You may have heard reports that the family of Martin Luther King Jr. was caught in a spat with the organization that helped erect the MLK monument in D.C. It turns out, there was a prior, mutual agreement for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to stop using the name of MLK Jr. once the statue was complete.
Tricia Harris, who worked as general manager of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate and chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, says the plan all along was for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to drop the name of the late civil rights leader after the 4-acre memorial was dedicated by President Obama in August 2011.
The memorial, 15 years in the planning, has a 30-foot statue of the late civil rights leader, who was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.
“Going all the way back to ’96 or ’97, they came to us, the King estate, and said they only wanted to create an organization for the finite purpose of creating a memorial on the (National) Mall,” Harris said.
Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington-based organization now known simply as The Memorial Foundation (www.thememorialfoundation.org), agreed.
“Let me put it like this: The agreement that we had was that everything would revert back to them anyway, so we abided by the agreement, but our mission really has changed,” said Johnson, a Houston lawyer.
The King Family Estate controls the trademark to use the name and likeness of MLK.