Gov. Deal to work on Capitol honor for Martin Luther King

Gov. Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal

Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy will be honored at the Georgia Capitol.

On the holiday that celebrates the Atlantan’s contribution to civil rights Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal said he is committed to honoring King on Capitol Hill. He did not give specifics, though, and did not specifically address a proposal to place a King statue in the now vacant space where a statue of former U.S. Sen. Tom Watson, who was a white supremacist, was removed last year.

“Dr. King deserves all the praise and honor that is afforded him in ceremonies like this one which take place each year around the nation. But I think more than just saying kind thoughts about him, we ought to take action ourselves. This is how we imbed truth into our words,” Deal said at a ceremony at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church Monday.

“I think it’s time for Georgia’s leaders to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps and take action too. Not many states can boast a native son who has merited a national holiday. But we Georgians can,” Deal said. “Dr. King lived during a time when the law required discrimination against some of our citizens. That’s why, working with the General Assembly in this 2014 session, I’m committed to finding an appropriate way to honor Dr. King on Capitol Hill.”

Deal also talked about paying homage to King by passing “just laws that lift up the human spirit,” including work in recent years to reform the court system to focus on rehabilitation. A third phase of reforms will begin this year, he said, announcing that the state will give job applicants a chance to explain past arrests and calling on the private sector to follow suit in giving rehabilitated applicants a chance at a job.

“Now, I want to stress that this will require determination on the part of those released. They will have to work hard and stay clean,” Deal said. “The reforms aren’t a handout. They help those who help themselves. And I have seen the liberating power of a job for men and women who know what it feels like to lose freedom. …

“Dr. King said, ‘The time is always right to do what’s right,’” Deal added. “Well, I think we’re doing what’s right. I appreciate your partnership in this quest for justice, and I appreciate the chance today to celebrate the life and legacy of a proud son of Georgia, who stands tall as one of the greatest Americans to ever live.”