Local News

Controversial MLK Statue to Return to Rocky Mount Park

Posted May 15, 2007

A Rocky Mount City Council vote of 5-2 has put a controversial statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back in a city park nearly four years after it made its first appearance and two years after it was removed.

The city took it down from the park that bears King’s name in 2005 after public outcry that it looked nothing like the civil rights leader. The statue has since been tucked away in a warehouse.

“I've long thought that it should be up,” said council member Chris Miller. “I was disappointed when it was taken down. Just differences of understanding, I think, about what a statue is.”

Dr. Elbert Lee marched with Dr. King. He was one of the loudest voices arguing to take it down, noting the lack of resemblance to King.

“To know a statue like that is going back up there, which will be there forever,” Lee said. “An unborn generation will never know the real appearance of Dr. Martin King.”

The city tried to hire another artist who created another model, but many people argued it still didn't look like King. Then the council voted to scrap the project all together.

On Monday, Rocky Mount resident Mae Parker asked leaders to reconsider their decision, and the majority of the council agreed it was time to move forward.

“It was intended to honor Dr. King and his life, and his life and his accomplishments are certainly worth of being honored,” Miller said.

“I think this was a more serious matter which should have had some kind of level of discussion that included the community,” said council member Andre Knight, who voted against the change.

Knight said he worries this quick decision ignores the voices of some concerned citizens.

“We do have bigger issues that I think Dr. King would want us to champion,” he said.

The statue could soon return to its original place in the park. The city has been asked to re-instate the statue by May 26 for a community event in the park. Assistant City Manager Peter Varney said a local contractor has offered to do so for free.

55 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • Lookelou May 17, 2:10 a.m.

    More time should be used teaching who the man was. My neighbor stated today that her son was upset because today in school they talked about Abe Lincoln being shot in a theater and MLK being shot on his front porch. And while I admire MLK, Medgar Evans and Rosa Parks, I think a statue is better than naming a street after somebody. Please do not think this comment is meant to disrespect anyone. You get what you paid for. RMT spent 55000 for a statue that at least looks like a man. Raleigh spend how much on a Time & Light tower that looks like a ?????????.

  • this is my Screen Name May 16, 3:37 p.m.

    Not only does he have parks named after him, but you can drive on many, many roads that bear his name. There's a whole lot out there that pays honor to him. You can't please all the people all the time and as has been suggested, if people aren't happy with how this statue looks, put action to it by digging into your wallets to get him to look how you want him to. I bet there will still be dissention over the details. Or better yet, put that money toward organizations that help people out, i.e., practice what he preached!

  • Lilyank May 16, 1:42 p.m.

    MLK has a beautiful park and walking area, and is also very large. Then they add a statue and people still are not happy?? Who is paying for this stautue to be made? If it is the taxpayers as a "gift" then people should be happy. If not, the people who are upset and ticked off about it not looking like him, well they should get their money together and pay for their own statue and then they won't have 2 worry about anything.

  • jamandbread May 16, 1:21 p.m.

    In Beaufort, there is a stone shaped like a rectangle honoring a NASA astronaut, doesn't look a bit like the astronaut, but it certainly honors him. Not every town has a park named for MLK, much less a statue. As the City on the Rise, I think Rocky Mount leaders who agreed to put the statue back up should be commended. For those who disagree, cemetary monument companies can encase a photograph to put near the statue. That is if anyone can agree on which picture is most like the real MLK.

  • The Fox May 16, 12:46 p.m.

    I would think that Dr. King, like most Baptist Preachers, would have been shocked and embarrassed to have been deified like this, had he been alive. A garden would have been nice enough.

  • f6rider May 16, 12:37 p.m.

    A statue and a photograph are two different things. If they want an exact image of MLK, why do a blow up of a photograph and incase it to protect it from the weather and put it on display? I've never seen any statue of a person that was an exact reflection.

    It's time to move on people there larger issues pressing here in NC that need attention! The people that are complaining should get a life!!!!

  • innocent bystander May 16, 12:15 p.m.

    Maybe they should have put up a Picasso piece instead. They wouldn't be arguing about the likeness of the face because they wouldn't even be able to locate it!

  • svaraj38758 May 16, 12:15 p.m.

    One thing I notice about the statue first off is the image shown here seems to not show his moustache very well. How many of us have known someone to cut their moustache and look considerably different? Do a search on the web and look at the many different images in both portraits and statues and notice the variations. To me you have to look at the situation like this: Does it bear any resemblance to the man? Does it honor the man? I think it does on both counts. Rocky Mount...place it, honor the man as it was intended and let a future generation replace it if they wish. What is being created here is a history of controversy that will be remembered on a larger scale in the RM area more so than the MLK legacy.

  • this is my Screen Name May 16, 12:11 p.m.

    How would he feel about all this controversy?

  • beachgal May 16, 12:09 p.m.

    Are they ever satisfied?

More...