- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Officials planning to erect a memorial to Martin Luther King on the Mall said yesterday they have raised $60.3 million of the $100 million needed to build and maintain the monument, but they still are short of the funding needed to break ground by November.

“We see ourselves as on target at this time,” said Trudy Byrd, a spokeswoman for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project.

The 4-acre tribute to King will sit on the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin, across from the Jefferson Memorial and north of the memorial to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Conceived by the San Francisco-based Roma Design Group, the memorial will feature a 30-foot likeness of King — called the “Stone of Hope” — as its centerpiece, and will include a crescent-shaped stone wall inscribed with excerpts of his speeches.

Officials said they need $66 million by November to obtain building permits for the site, leaving them $5.7 million short of that goal. A groundbreaking is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Alpha Phi Alpha leaders said the fraternity’s upcoming centennial celebration and annual convention should generate more chapter donations. The fraternity won congressional approval in 1996 to erect the memorial to King.

“We have the momentum now and we expect in short order we will raise the necessary funds and make this memorial a reality,” said Darryl R. Matthews Sr., the fraternity’s president.

King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, which began at Cornell University in 1906 as the nation’s first black intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity.

During a centennial ceremony yesterday, Alpha Phi Alpha members laid a wreath at the memorial site and observed a moment of silence in honor of their founders.

“We’re here not about bricks and mortar,” said former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a former ambassador to the United Nations who is co-chairman of the memorial foundation. “We’re here about continuing the powerful spirit and vision of our brother, Martin Luther King.”

The bulk of the memorial’s funding has come from large corporate sponsors. Filmmaker George Lucas donated $1 million to the project last year.

Mr. Matthews said the centennial celebration should serve as a reminder to fraternity members and others about the importance of a national monument to preserve King’s legacy.

“Our purpose here today is to reconnect,” Mr. Matthews said during the ceremony. “To be reconnected and rededicated to the man, the dream, the message.”

A contractor has not been selected to build the memorial, but officials said they expect a decision in about a month.

Construction is expected to begin by next spring and should be completed in 2008.

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