A group of Fulton County Republicans in the General Assembly has proposed a novel way of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Name a proposed South Fulton city in his honor.
State Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, who has co-sponsored a bill that would allow residents of unincorporated South Fulton to form a city if they choose, says naming the city “King, Ga.,” would be a fitting way to honor the civil rights leader.
“I strongly believe that the city of South Fulton should have more than a geographic identity,” Lindsey said. “Rather, embrace the legacy of Martin Luther King. This would be a great and proper recognition of his legacy in his home state.”
Republican Reps. Jan Jones, Wendell Willard, Joe Wilkinson, Harry Geisinger, Tom Rice and Mike Jacobs also support the idea.
Supporters of South Fulton incorporation say local residents should name the city, if they decide to create it.
And state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who does not support incorporating South Fulton, said it’s “bizarre” that Republicans – who have opposed measures like Medicaid expansion that Fort says would benefit minorities and the poor – want to honor King.
“I’d prefer that people do things to help the people Dr. King was most concerned about,” Fort said.
The Republicans’ proposal could draw new attention to the South Fulton incorporation proposal as well as to efforts to honor King’s legacy in his hometown.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference – an organization King once led – has been pressing the General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal to allow a statue of King at the state capitol. Lindsey said he supports the statue but thinks naming a city for him is also appropriate.
“We’ve named a lot of great towns after great men and women in history,” Lindsey said. “I cannot think of a better person who deserves that (than King).”
Derek Alderman, a University of Tennessee geography professor who has researched streets named for King, said he is aware of one town — Kingstown, N.C., (population 681) — named for the civil rights leader. In addition, he said officials in King County, Wash., which was originally named for someone else, have “renamed” the county after Martin Luther King, Jr., and his likeness now appears on the county logo.
Fulton County already is home to 14 cities. About 90,000 people live in the county’s last unincorporated area. It covers about 105 square miles and stretches from Atlanta to Chattahoochee Hills and from College Park to the Douglas County line.
In 2007 85 percent of South Fulton voters rejected a proposal to incorporate. But supporters have renewed their push, saying residents can better control their own future if they form a city.
Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, has introduced House Bill 704, which will allow residents to vote in this year’s primary election on whether to incorporate. If they approve the city, residents would elect a mayor and city council in November.
Some Democrats, including Fort, remain skeptical of the idea. They say incorporating the last bit of Fulton County plays into the hands of Republicans who have waged a campaign against county government. Among other things, the Republicans have passed legislation making it easier to fire county employees and prohibiting county commissioners from raising property taxes.
Lindsey said he supports the South Fulton incorporation bill because he believes “citizens should have an opportunity to determine whether they want a local government closer to them than an often distant county government.”
Bruce said the Republicans’ motives are beside the point. “What’s important to me is whether (incorporating) is the right thing to do for the people who live in the area,” he said. “I think this is the best thing for people.”
As for naming the city after King, Bruce said that should be up to residents of South Fulton. Benny Crane, an organizer of the incorporation movement, agreed.
“I don’t have a problem with the King name,” Crane said. “But I am worried about it confusing people during this (incorporation) process.”