Friday, December 13, 2013

MLK should replace Tom Watson statue spot outside Gold Dome, state lawmaker says

Posted By on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM

A hole in the ground currently sits where the Thomas Watson statue once stood
  • Joeff Davis
  • A hole in the ground is all that's left of the spot where the Thomas Watson statue once stood

Now that the statue of former Georgia politician and white supremacist Thomas Watson has been moved from the front entrance of the Georgia Capitol, ideas over what to replace it are being bandied about. At least one state lawmaker wants to see a monument that would include the Ten Commandments take its prominent place. But another state lawmaker would like to see a statue honoring the most well-known figure from the Civil Rights Movement and Atlanta's most famous native son placed outside the Gold Dome.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, prefiled a bill last night for the upcoming legislative session calling for the state to erect a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the spot where the Watson statue previously stood.

Brooks told CL last night that the proposal is a "no brainer," citing the fact that a statue of King is located on the Mall in Washington, D.C., between the Lincoln and Washington memorials, in addition to another statue that stands inside the U.S. Capitol. Brooks mentioned that there are statues of former Govs. (and "racists") John B. Gordon, Eugene Talmadge, and Richard B. Russell but nothing dedicated to the civil rights leader.

"King changed the world, he is popular throughout the world, and he is a native son," Brooks said. "He was born just five blocks away from the state Capitol and there is no statue [of] him on the Georgia state Capitol grounds."

To Brooks, Watson and King were polar opposites of what Georgia should represent.

"Tom Watson represented the worst of our history he represented all that is bad in both American and Georgia history, he was anti-black, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic," he said. "Dr. King is just the opposite. Dr King's legacy is one of bringing all of us together, and that all people are equal, everyone is the same - and everybody is brothers and sisters and that we should learn to live together. Watson was a divider, he was a racist bigot and Dr. King was a racial healer. He freed blacks and whites. I think the people of state would support a statue of Dr. King in front of the Capitol."

Brooks worked with King's organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in the 1960s up until 1980. The state lawmaker first met King when he was 15 years old and said the civil rights leader made an impact that he "will carry forever in my soul."

When asked about a proposal by state Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, to place a monument that would include the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions, along with the Ten Commandments, where the Watson statue once stood, Brooks said that he thinks the Decalogue "has a place, but not at the front of the capitol."

Brooks' legislation calls for the statue to be placed "at the steps leading to the front entrance of the state capitol building or another prominent position." "Unless public safety concerns warrant postponement, such monument shall be procured and placed as soon as practicable," it reads.

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