In the basement of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. hangs in the office he worked in from 1954 to 1960.
The picture shows King, wearing a black pulpit gown, shaking hands with parishioners as they leave the church on a bright Sunday morning, the Capitol in the background. Years later, the same image is the blueprint for a statue of King the church is raising money for to put in front of the Dexter King Memorial Legacy Center.
“Clearly, throughout the statues in most places, they always have him in a suit, but they have forgotten that he was the pastor of a church,” Dexter Avenue Pastor Cromwell Handy said.
Although the church just recently announced its campaign to erect a life-size statue of King, the initial plans started years before. In 2008, Evelyn Lowery, wife of Southern Christian Leadership Conference founder Joseph Lowery, began working with the church to raise funds for a King statue. However, Lowery’s death in 2013 delayed planning.
Handy said that before she died, Lowery had asked him to hold off on any plans for the statue until after the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
“Having talked to Ms. Lowery and had several conversations with her and the plans we were trying to make, I cannot let it die,” he said.
Ronald Scott McDowell, the lead artist for the project, said one interesting aspect of the statue was its interactive qualities and how people could touch the statue and shake its hand, commemorating the photo it’s based on.
“Hopefully, we can bring the essence of Dr. King here, because he was called by God to lead his ministry,” said McDowell, who also worked with pop singer Michael Jackson as an art teacher.
However, Handy said the statue is meant to give meaning not just to King’s religious role in the city, but also to the role of the community during the civil rights movement. In addition, other artists will also work with McDowell on the project, such as John Feagin, who attended King’s church as a boy in Montgomery.
Source: Montgomery Advertiser | Drew Taylor