Artists sought for John Lewis tribute at old Confederate monument site

The spot where a Confederate obelisk once stood on the grounds of the DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur. DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger declared the monument that was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to be a public nuisance that should be removed. JOHN AMIS FOR THE AJC
The spot where a Confederate obelisk once stood on the grounds of the DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur. DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger declared the monument that was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to be a public nuisance that should be removed. JOHN AMIS FOR THE AJC

If all goes as planned, a tribute to John Lewis will rise on the downtown Decatur square by next summer. The late congressman and civil rights hero will be honored at the same spot where a Confederate monument stood for more than a century.

But first, officials need to find an artist that’s up to the task.

With that in mind, DeKalb County has issued a call for artists to submit their bona fides and their conceptual ideas for the project, which documents describe as “a statue, sculpture or other permanent artistic piece that reflects the values and impact of Congressman Lewis’s life and work.”

The deadline for submissions is March 3.

Documents suggest finalists would then be selected by April, with the ultimate selection made the following month.

The goal is to have the Lewis monument in place by May 2022.

Lewis was a leader in the civil rights movement and later represented the 5th Congressional District, which includes a large portion of DeKalb County, for more than three decades. He died last July after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Shortly thereafter, DeKalb Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett created a task force to consider the best place for the county to honor Lewis.

Like other community groups and activists, the task force quickly homed in on a site outside the historic DeKalb County courthouse — the same spot on the Decatur square where an 30-foot obelisk honoring the Confederacy had been removed about a month before Lewis’ death.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners and the Decatur City Commission recently passed resolutions supporting the task force’s recommendation.

“Because this location sits in DeKalb County, the city of Decatur, and in the congressional district which John represented for over 30 years, there could be no better location,” Davis Johnson said in a news release.

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