One of many appropriations in the state budget bill, which passed both chambers during the final day of lame-duck, $500,000 will go towards a new Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Springfield.
House Bill 969 grants the appropriation from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to the Architect of the Capitol. It passed in the Illinois State Senate 30-21 and House of Representatives 71-36 on Jan. 10 and awaits Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature.
What the new statute will be and the location for it remains undetermined, according to Illinois Senate Democrats spokesman John Patterson.
The bill’s passing happened about four months after 24-year-old Fernando Garcia Martinez was arrested for toppling the current MLK statue. The statue, located at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Second Street, has since been removed from the base and taken to a state warehouse in Springfield. It is unclear when or if it will be returned to the intersection also called "Freedom Corner."
In recent years, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have been in agreement that a more prominently located statue for the slain civil rights leader whose birth was celebrated Monday. State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago and now former state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield were in agreement during a June 2021 House Statue and Monument Review Task Force session attended by then Secretary of State Jesse White.
White, who knew King as his pastor while White was attending college in Montgomery, Alabama, offered $5,000 of his own funding to commence the campaign. Flowers would later introduce House Bill 5696 in February 2022, which would have called for a statue to be placed on the Capitol grounds by Jan. 1, 2025.
“It’s impossible to bestow the appropriate honor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy,” said Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias in a statement. “His fight for civil rights and his commitment to promoting a more equitable society with equal opportunity for all make him one of the most significant figures in our nation’s history. I strongly support honoring Dr. King’s legacy with an inspiring, distinguished statue that is prominently displayed on the Illinois State Capitol grounds.”
Mayor Jim Langfelder noted the prominence of the Abraham Lincoln statue on the east lawn of the Capitol, a common spot for visitors to snap photos. A location for the new MLK statue should attract similar attention, he said on Wednesday.
"Whenever there’s any kind of engagement in the rotunda, people stop by that (Lincoln) statue," Langfelder said.
The existing King statue, sculpted by Geraldine McCullough, was unveiled 25 years ago this month and displayed in the Capitol rotunda until it was moved outside the Illinois State Museum in 1989.
In 1993, the statue was moved to Freedom Corner. King is the only non-Illinoisan to be honored with a statue on the grounds of the Capitol Complex.
Contact Patrick Keck: email@example.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter
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January 19, 2023 at 10:03AM