Maryland saw a good deal of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his lifetime. But in the 37 years since King's death, Marylanders haven't seen a memorial to the civil rights leader unveiled in some plaza or park.
Civil rights leaders in Anne Arundel County have launched a $250,000 campaign to place a bronze statue of King on the campus of Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold. Work has begun in the Denver foundry of Ed Dwight, a prolific sculptor of African American public art projects.
"It just seemed a fitting way to pay tribute," said Carl O. Snowden, who is an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) and chairs the fundraising effort. "Many people were surprised to learn, as I was, that there was no memorial to Dr. King in Maryland."
Baltimore was the backdrop for some of King's more memorable news conferences and rallies.
On Halloween in 1964, at the end of a six-day tour to encourage urban blacks to vote in the presidential election, King rolled through East Baltimore and cheering throngs in an open convertible. In a speech that day, he said, "We have got to take that short walk to the polling booth on Tuesday because this is the most crucial and decisive election in our history."
The next year, at a Baltimore meeting of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King announced a campaign to register black voters in 120 "Black Belt" counties across seven Southern states, and he called for an economic boycott against Alabama and its segregationist governor, George C. Wallace.
Snowden and Dwight said they are not aware of any permanent memorial to King in Maryland. There are streets named for him in Baltimore and Prince George's County and a northern red oak planted in his honor at the State House in Annapolis.
The memorial design depicts King standing, gesturing with his right hand and holding a book in his left, and he wears a "gentle, low-key" expression as he speaks, Dwight said. Behind him, a semicircular stone wall, fitted with five bronze plaques, "will give the whole intellectual history of Dr. King," including quotations from his landmark speeches. The 9-foot-6 statue is on a five-foot granite pedestal and looks down upon a small, natural amphitheater, which Dwight found tucked between the science and fine arts buildings on the Arnold campus.
"You know, King was an educator, and he was deeply concerned about the education of the masses, both black and white kids," Dwight said. "It's totally appropriate to have this thing on a college campus, something of higher learning." The Denny's restaurant chain, which in the 1990s settled a bias lawsuit filed by black Secret Service agents who dined in Annapolis, has pledged $15,000 toward the statue. Konrad M. Wayson, president of the county school board, has pledged $10,000 of his own money, and the school system is launching a Pennies for King campaign, according to Snowden.
Some of the proceeds from the county's 18th annual King awards dinner and memorial breakfast, both scheduled for mid-January, will be set aside for the project, and houses of worship are being asked to collect donations on the weekend of his Jan. 15 birthday.