Martin Luther King Jr. statue to be unveiled in Atlanta park

Credit: World Peace Revival

Credit: World Peace Revival

Project coincides with 55th anniversary of civil rights leader’s assassination

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On the evening of April 3, 1968, in front of a large crowd at a meeting at Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, those were the last words that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke publicly.

So exhausted and emotionally spent was King after his sermon, that he nearly collapsed into the arms of Ralph David Abernathy. Andrew Young would later say that those eyes that had seen the Lord’s glory had tears in them.

Less than 24 hours later, King would be dead.

On Saturday to mark the solemn 55th anniversary of King’s death, a new statue of the Atlanta native and civil rights legend will be unveiled in a Vine City Park within walking distance of his old Sunset Avenue home.

Inspired directly by King’s last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” it will be at least the fourth full-sized King statue in Atlanta.

Credit: Courtesy of Zachary Zimmerman

Credit: Courtesy of Zachary Zimmerman

“I am about holding up heroes on pedestals about what they stood for,” said Rodney Cook Jr., who helped build the 16-acre park Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Vine City, after the death of his father, to honor the Black civil rights leaders who inspired them both.

The park, which also functions as a drainage system to prevent the chronic flooding that once plagued the area, opened in 2021 just west of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Fincher

Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Fincher

Cook, the son of former city alderman and state legislator Rodney Mims Cook Sr., has raised more than $25 million to place at least 18 bronze statues in the park in honor of civil rights figures. The King statue follows monuments to Congressman John Lewis and Ambassador Andrew Young.

The statue was funded by Lawrenceville residents Clyde and Sandra Strickland, as well as through contributions from Cook’s National Monuments Foundation, Tim Minard, Dame Didi Wong, and Social Investment Holdings, Inc.

The new King statue was designed by artist Kathy Fincher, who co-sculptured it with Stan Mullins, who recently did the 20-foot sculpture of Chief Tomochichi in front of Cook’s Millennium Gate Museum in Midtown. Tomichichi was a Native American whose tribe lent vital help to Georgia’s English colonists.

Credit: World Peace Revival

Credit: World Peace Revival

“It was a tremendous honor to create this,” Mullins said. “And yes, there was incredible pressure too. This is Martin Luther King Jr.”

Cook, who runs the National Monument Foundation nonprofit, said that the King statue was supposed to be the first one, “because he is the superstar of Georgia peacemakers.”

But he was convinced by King’s daughter, Bernice King, to wait to unveil it this year to mark the 55th anniversary of his assassination.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, members of the King family and Young are among the dignitaries expected to attend the 1 p.m. Saturday unveiling and prior ceremonies.

Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Fincher

Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Fincher

In thinking about what he wanted the statue to say, Cook approached Fincher after seeing her Dream Keepers 9/11 Memorial in Gwinnett.

Fincher, who lives in Duluth, read everything she could about King and studied every statue and monument she could find.

The lack of one narrative soon became clear — most of the pieces depicted King in a suit, “looking like a politician,” Fincher said.

Few, if any, hinted at his life as a preacher.

“I was surprised to see how few showed him as a man of God,” Fincher said. “He was always in a business suit, but he was a great man because of his faith, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I show his faith?’”

King of Atlanta

Here are three other ways that Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored in Atlanta. And don’t miss this updated list of King statues around the country and around the world.

Credit: Reann Huber

Credit: Reann Huber


In the early 1980s with the opening of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King International Chapel, King’s alma mater commissioned Denver sculptor Ed Dwight to do the city’s first statue of the leader.


In 2017, on the 54th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream,” speech, an 8-foot statue of King was unveiled at the Georgia Capitol building.

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman


In 2021, a statue of King sculpted by Jamaican-born Basil Watson was installed on Northside Drive

The newest King statue will be unveiled at 1 p.m., following the World Peace Revival Awards ceremony and march.

Using the Mountaintop speech as a guide, particularly the last line, Fincher has King “Looking up to God.”

He is wearing a doctoral robe that “melts” at the bottom into something akin to a biblical robe. Alveda King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Sr., loaned Fincher one of his robes to serve as a model.

The robe is wind-swept, and King’s right leg is perched on a stone carved out of Stone Mountain, harkening to his “I Have a Dream” speech. A bible in his left hand is turned to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses himself sees God.

When it is unveiled, it will be in the middle of the park standing 8 feet 3 inches and resting on a six-foot high pedestal.

“It is so hard to do Dr. King,” Cook said about the challenge of artistically rending King. “But they absolutely got it. So we are showcasing him here, within eyesight of his home as a man of the cloth. The very moment that he has this epiphany. A vision of God.”

Saturday’s unveiling of the King statue

Here’s a look at the day’s agenda:

9:30 a.m.: Gates open at Home Depot Backyard at Mercedes Benz Stadium

10:45 a.m.: Opening Remarks and Prayer at Home Depot Backyard

11:00 a.m.: Peace Walk to Rodney Cook Sr. Peace Park

12:15 p.m.: Greeting and Speakers at Rodney Cook Sr. Peace Park

12:30 p.m.: World Peace Revival Legacy Award

1:00 p.m.: Unveiling of Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” statue