Attorney Harry E. Johnson Sr. is on a mission to erect the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C.
As president of the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation, Johnson is spearheading a drive to raise $100 million for the project.
The project garnered international attention with a ceremonial ground breaking in November of last year. So far, the project has accrued eighty-seven million of the funding needed for completion.
Johnson was among the awardees at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Commemoration held Friday at the California African American museum.
The commemoration, hosted by 48th District Assemblyman Mike Davis, also honored Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., senior United States District Judge.
Johnson, who flew in from Houston to Los Angeles to attend the commemoration, said that the MLK project has received tremendous support. The attorney, who is a past president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said that the fraternity conceived of the idea for a Dr. King memorial twenty-five years ago.
“Congress signed into law the authority for the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to raise funds and build a memorial to Dr. King,” said Johnson. “We were able to secure the piece of land between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials. What better place to place a king than between two presidents?”
Johnson said that seven years ago, the foundation then launched an international competition for the design of the memorial. “We got 990 entries from around the world and from 52 different countries.”
The winning design was chosen from the Roma Group, an architectural firm in San Francisco. “An international jury pool selected the winning design,” said Johnson, who said that the winning design was drawn by a Chinese sculptor.
Johnson said that the choice to use the Chinese sculptor’s design initially rankled some King supporters. “People asked me, ‘Why did you pick a Chinese guy?’ I told them what Dr. King said–we should judge a person not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.”
Johnson added that McKissick and McKissick, an African American female architectural firm, will construct the memorial.
When completed, the memorial, which will feature a tidal basin, will stand 30 feet tall and cover four acres of land.
The attorney said that monetary contributions for the memorial have poured in from all over the country. “We’ve gotten donations from school children, houses of faith, and from college students.”
Johnson also added that major corporations have also donated to the fund, including General Motors, Tommy Hilfiger, Toyota Motor Company, Ford Motor Company, and Coca Cola.
The memorial is scheduled to break ground by spring of 2009.
Johnson said that once completed, the memorial will draw people from all over the world. “The National Park Service thinks it will be one of the most visited memorials in Washington, D. C.”