Rep. Tyrone Brooks calls MLK ‘The greatest man to walk the earth since Jesus Christ.’
If anyone possessed the stature and qualifications to speak on, and act on behalf of, the venerated nonviolent revolutionary Martin Luther King Jr., it would someone like State Rep. Tyrone Brooks.
Brooks (D-Atlanta) was first inspired into activism as an adolescent growing up in middle Georgia. So active was the teen Brooks that he was recruited to join Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organization, just months before the iconic Baptist minister was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Brooks also holds an annual protest march on the anniversary of King’s death on April 4 at the Ford Moore’s Bridge near Macon, Ga., in an effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the bloodbath against innocent black citizens there in the late 1960s, one of the last goals on Dr. King’s agenda before he was murdered at the Lorraine Hotel.
So it was apropos that Brooks would sponsor and successful usher a bill through the Georgia state legislature to have a statue erected at the capital in Atlanta to permanently pay homage to the late, legendary civil rights leader.
Brooks’ reasoning behind championing the construction of an edifice in King’s honor is very simple, yet extremely powerful.
“He is the greatest man I have ever known,” Brooks said resolutely, pausing to let the words marinate in the air. “People always look at me, like, ‘oh.’ But Martin Luther King is the greatest man to walk on this planet since Jesus Christ. I don’t know of anybody greater than Martin King except Christ. And I really believe that.
“I really believe that he was sent by God to do a task for 39 years and then God moved him out.”
The bill passed the House 173-3, Brooks said, and quickly moved through the state senate. Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law House Bill 1080, legislation that authorizes the placement of a statue honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the state Capitol. The privately funded project will be led by the Georgia Capitol Arts Standards Commission, which will undertake the statue’s design and fund-raising efforts.
“Every year in January we honor Dr. King, who inspired our nation with his dream of hope, justice and human rights,” said Deal. “This legislation goes beyond our words of praise by placing a physical monument at the state Capitol to commemorate this great Georgian’s legacy for many years to come. Not many states can boast a native son who merited a national holiday, but we Georgians can. Dr. King is a point of pride for our state, and he deserves to hold a place of honor on our Capitol grounds. I commend the General Assembly for its partnership in finding the proper tribute.”
King is already the only non-president to have his likeness erected on the Washington Mall, adjacent the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, as well as a statue sitting prominently at his alma mater, Morehouse College. But Brooks believed that
“He’s what I say to people who may not understand why — and I said this on the floor of the legislature. Yes, he is known around the world and he is honored around the world in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Central and South America. But I say the greatest honor that we can pay Dr. King since (President) Ronald Reagan signed the national holiday bill, that was passed by the Senate passed by Reagan to make his birthday a national holiday, is to honor him in his hometown,”
King grew up just a few blocks from the state capitol on Auburn Avenue. You can walk to his birthplace in 20 to 30 minutes. Legends and heroes are very rarely celebrated at home. It’s hard to be honored at home, for some reason. People take you for granted.
“Dr. King has never really been honored at home. He is more appreciated throughout the world than he is at home. That’s why it is important to honor him on his personal grounds.”
Even though Brooks has an optimistic outlook on life, he was nevertheless taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive feedback by the citizens of Georgia.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception of my colleagues in the general assembly and the governor, the people out there. Polling shows that over 75 percent of the people approve of bringing a statue of Dr. King to the grounds. There wasn’t much opposition. It’s long overdue. The thought came to me last December.
Brooks, the longtime president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO), said King’s offspring were “elated” that their father would be given a statue at the statehouse.
MLK III was happy. Jan 10 and I brought the SCLC family here to the statehouse to pass legislation to abolish racial profiling
The idea was born after Brooks and colleagues and sympathizers took pains to remove the statue of Tom Watson from the front of the statehouse. Watson was a one-time populist-turned-white supremacist who publicly pronounced his hatred of blacks, Jews and Catholics.
A reporter came to me and said ‘well, you worked hard to remove Tom Watson from the front door. Who do you want to replace him?’
“’Who else but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?’ That was my response.”
And now it has come to pass, nearly a half century after King’s assassination. The bill pass by Gov. Deal on what is, ironically and fortuitously, the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson (first spearheaded by President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy until JFK’s assassination), and is scheduled to be completed in January 2015 in proximity to MLK’s birthday.
To the delight of those who loved King in Atlanta, including Brooks and the likes of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Martin Luther King will finally receive appropriate honor in his hometown.