- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

Celebrated figures from the fields of literature, entertainment and politics are scheduled to attend a ceremony this morning to celebrate the start of construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

The memorial will be built along the eastern edge of the Tidal Basin and just a few hundred yards from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where King gave his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

The roughly 28-foot-tall memorial will include an image of King chiseled into a “Stone of Hope” and looking over the basin. It will be the first memorial on the Mall to a black person, and construction is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 9 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony and hear from former President Bill Clinton, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, poet Maya Angelou and two of King’s children, Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Bernice A. King. The Revs. Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson also are among the invited guests.

“When we finish this memorial, we will have a King among presidents,” said Harry E. Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

The memorial site is on 4 acres between the memorials to Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

King was born in Atlanta in 1929. He began as a pastor and came from a family of pastors. He received the Nobel Peace Prize at 35. King was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

Congress authorized construction of the memorial in 1996, legislation that was signed by Mr. Clinton. The site was selected in 1999.

The foundation, formed to raise $100 million to build and maintain the memorial, has reported raising $65.6 million. Contributions include $10 million from General Motors Corp. and $5 million from clothing manufacturer Tommy Hilfiger.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. proposed the memorial about 20 years ago. Mr. Johnson, of Houston, had been national president of the fraternity.

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