President Donald Trump created Georgia’s first national historic park on Monday evening, signing into law a bill upping federal protections for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site near downtown Atlanta.
The commander-in-chief signed the “Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Act” aboard Air Force One shortly after arriving in Atlanta for the national collegiate football championship between the universities of Georgia and Alabama.
The bill signing came with little fanfare or advance notice. Alveda King, a vocal Trump ally, was present for the quick ceremony, which came a week ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Long championed by Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, a vocal critic of Trump’s, the bill would reclassify the King site in Sweet Auburn and devote more federal resources to it, including park rangers, educational programming and community grants. The legislation would also add the Prince Hall Masonic Building, which once served as the headquarters to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to the complex, which already includes King’s birth home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church and a visitor center.
Both the King site and the national championship game are located in Lewis’ 5th Congressional District, which Trump a year ago called “crime infested” and in “horrible shape” – a comment fiercely disputed by the city’s residents. His remarks came after Lewis said Trump was not a “legitimate president” and promised to boycott his inauguration.
The two have studiously avoided one another since. Indeed, Lewis skipped an appearance at the football on Monday, opting to be in Washington for House votes.
The Democrat and leading civil rights figure did not mention Trump by name in a statement celebrating the enactment of the legislation.
“I am so proud that we were able to work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to establish Georgia’s first National Historical Park in Dr. King’s name and legacy before what would be his 89th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his tragic assassination,” Lewis said.
“I hope that this moment will serve as a reminder of the constant work to realize Dr. King’s dream of building the Beloved Community -- a community at peace with itself and our neighbors," he added.
Boosters of the Ocmulgee National Monument are hoping Congress will grant the Macon-area park the same designation as the King site later this year.