ATLANTA — The family of Martin Luther King Jr. has warned Georgia's governor it wants input on any monument to the slain civil rights icon that might be erected on the grounds of the state Capitol.
A state bill with bipartisan support calls for a monument to King to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol or another prominent location. Gov. Nathan Deal in January told a congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, that he'd work with the Legislature to secure a prominent place at the Capitol for a monument to the Atlanta native.
Eric Tidwell, managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, an entity run by the King family, sent a letter to the governor's office this week reminding him that the estate owns all rights to King's "name, image, likeness, words, rights of publicity, copyrighted works, recorded voice, and trademark interests," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Tidwell also said the estate was surprised not to have heard from the governor about any plans for a monument.
"When the media reported that the Governor referenced this initiative in remarks he made on the King Holiday, we expected to hear from your office and the appropriate parties seeking the Estate's input and approval," Tidwell wrote, adding that no formal request for permission to use any of King's intellectual property had been received.
The governor's chief of staff, Chris Riley, responded by email, saying they were monitoring the legislation.
"Please do not assume the governor would ever try to financially capitalize on the legacy of Dr. King. He is simply. trying to honor a great Georgian," Riley wrote.
Tidwell wrote back that he didn't imagine that the governor wanted to monetize King's image, and said licenses to use King's image have been issued to governments at no cost. But he said the family wants to be included in any process of determining how King will be honored.
The King family has actively used the courts over the years to assert its rights over King's written word and image.
State Rep. Calvin Smyre, R-Columbus, is one of the sponsors of the legislation seeking to honor King. He told the newspaper the King family would be consulted if a monument is built.
"My job is shepherding this bill through the legislative process," Smyre said. "Thereafter, the right people will be assembled and the right meeting will be held."
The legislation does not specify how King would be honored, but it sets the process in motion and says any project would be privately funded.