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Fund-Raising Effort for King Memorial Stalled

November 23, 2001|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Efforts to raise money to build the national Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall have stalled because the memorial foundation so far has been unable to get permission from the King family to use the slain civil rights leader's image and words in the fund-raising campaign.

The King family wants to receive a fee as part of such an agreement, said Harry E. Johnson, president of the King National Memorial Project Foundation Inc.

The memorial, estimated to cost $100 million, is to be built on a four-acre Tidal Basin site within the sightline of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. The site was dedicated last year, and the foundation, by law, has until Dec. 12, 2003, to raise the necessary funds. Congress often has granted extensions of such deadlines for memorial projects.

Johnson, who is also president of the memorial's sponsor, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., would not say how much money has been raised. But he indicated that it was not a large amount and that most prospective donors are holding off on contributions until the foundation's negotiations with the King family are resolved.

General Motors Corp., for example, which already has contributed $750,000 to the memorial, has suggested that a larger donation would follow. Those plans are on hold because the issue of permission to use King's name and likeness has not been settled, company spokesman Bill Noack said.

In a statement, the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, which is governed by the King family, said it is discussing a "permissions agreement" with memorial organizers that will "outline the parameters of their fund-raising to ensure that potential corporate sponsors use Dr. King's image appropriately."

Tricia Harris, the center's managing director, said that the King family wants to protect the way King's image, speeches and writings are used in the foundation's appeals for funds, as well as in ads that corporations may run to promote their sponsorship of the project.

A fee from the memorial foundation also would help offset any decline in fund-raising that the center might suffer because of donations to the Mall project, Harris said.

Johnson, a Houston lawyer, said he remains optimistic about an agreement but added that the foundation's lawyers are researching whether a legal agreement with the King Center is needed.

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