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North Henry Boulevard bridge in Stockbridge now named for M.L. King Sr.

Posted August 31

— On the day that the Martin Luther King Jr. statue was unveiled on the grounds of the State Capitol, King's daughter also received the replica of a sign now affixed to a Stockbridge bridge in honor of her late grandfather.

The bridge is located on North Henry Boulevard and crosses over the recently renamed Martin Luther King Sr. Heritage Trail in the heart of the city. The heritage trail and now bridge are named for King Sr., who born and raised in Stockbridge.

The trail is the route King Sr. travelled to go to work at the Rock Quarry and near the Rosenwald School where he attended. The school was located at Tye and Second streets. King Sr. also spent much of his time at the nearby Floyd Chapel Baptist Church on First Street where he preached his first sermon at the age of 15, according to city officials.

Former council member Alphonso Thomas spearheaded the efforts to acknowledge the King family's ancestral roots in Stockbridge. Those efforts led the City Council to rename North Berry Street to M.L. King Sr. Heritage Trail in 2015. The council later voted to request that the state rename the bridge in honor of King Sr. at the suggestion of Ga. Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough.

"This is an effort to recognize individuals who contributed to the improvement of Stockbridge," said Thomas at a November 2015 council meeting. "I thank Welch for bringing this initiative forward."

Welch sponsored the bill, approved during the 2016 legislative session. The sign was installed last week.

"This was a way of recognizing some of the history that exists in Stockbridge that many people may not be aware of," said Welch. "The timing with all that's going on in the country, I think it's appropriate to discuss some of the people who shaped the civil rights movement."

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Ellenwood, chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council, said he is "honored that Stockbridge saw fit for the renaming of this bridge."

"It wasn't controversial at all and (the city council) were able to rally around social justice," said Jones. "Stockbridge and this moral sweep of history is a unique place on that moral arc. The movement actually started in Stockbridge. Stockbridge has done a lot of work in accepting this history as the birthplace of the civil rights movement."

The city of Stockbridge is planning to host a bridge dedication ceremony in the coming weeks.

King Jr.'s daughter, Bernice King, received the replica sign Monday, just before the unveiling ceremony for the King Jr. statue on the Capitol grounds. Henry County's Andy Davis was originally chosen as the sculptor for the statue by Gov. Nathan Deal, but Davis died just weeks later after his motorcycle was hit by a pickup truck.

Atlanta artist Martin Dawe was chosen as the new sculptor.

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