Atlanta Deal for King Papers Paves Way for Museum
Atlanta's $32 million purchase of Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers, made just days before they were to be auctioned by Sotheby's Holdings Inc., will be a catalyst for getting a new civil rights museum built in the city, Mayor Shirley Franklin said.
Franklin, facing a June 30 auction, won a commitment from SunTrust Banks Inc. to provide short-term financing to buy the papers from King's children and keep then in Atlanta. The mayor then scrambled to get commitments from executives including Turner Broadcasting Group Chairman Phil Kent, developer John Portman and H.J. Russell & Co. founder Herman Russell.
Building a museum to house the 7,000-page collection will help Atlanta remain ``the center of the civil rights movement that we were in Dr. King's days,'' Franklin said today in an interview in New York, where she came to view the collection and attend a reception at Sotheby's. It includes a draft of King's ``I Have a Dream'' speech given at the 1963 March on Washington.
``I didn't think we'd have the King papers to even put into a civil rights museum a year ago,'' said Franklin, a Democrat, who became the first black female mayor of a major Southern city when she took office in Georgia's capital in 2002. ``I just wanted to get them before they went to bid.''
Franklin, 61, said site selection and financial planning for a civil rights museum, which may be built near Atlanta's historic Auburn Avenue district, will begin before year's end. Boston Consulting Group, which advises companies and governments on marketing strategy, finance, technology, and organization, agreed to work on the museum without charge, she said.
About half of the $32 million needed to pay for the papers has been raised so far from individuals and companies, Franklin said. Georgia Power Co., Home Depot Inc., BellSouth Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. are among corporations that have pledged support for the King papers purchase, she said.
Former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young, a longtime mentor and Franklin's former boss, helped her contact other individuals, she said.
``We were delighted to provide the short-term financing that allowed Atlanta to keep the King papers,'' said Gary Peacock, president of SunTrust Banks' Atlanta unit, in an interview today.
King's papers will be owned by and housed at his alma mater, Morehouse College, which is located a couple of miles away from the King Center founded by his late wife, Coretta Scott King, who died Jan. 31 at the age of 78. King's four adult children will keep the intellectual property rights of the paper and speeches.
``It's an unusual collection in that you're able to see the evolution in his thoughts and views,'' Franklin said.
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