A group of Jefferson County citizens are working together on a fundraising effort to acquire a statue of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and have it unveiled outside the courthouse in January 2014 for the 75th anniversary of his birth.
The estimated cost of the proposed life-sized statue is between $100,000 and $125,000, so Barbara Blunt Muhammad and her MLK Jr. Statue Committee are preparing for the awaiting challenge. The panel met Tuesday night at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and began devising strategies for a collection campaign.
Donations to the committee will be accepted through an account at Simmons First National Bank, and plans for contacting churches for contributions were discussed. The panel will be looking at obtaining corporate sponsors to provide financial support as well as goods and services.
Muhammad said Relyance Bank has already expressed interest in the drive to salute King.
Muhammad said the statue is to be placed on the Main Street side of the courthouse. She said she discussed her idea on the effort with the 2012 county judge candidates — eventual winner Dutch King and his opponent, Justice of the Peace Ted Harden. Both supported the notion, she said.
Since then, King has obtained professional advice on placement of a statue and Harden has pledged that he would attempt to help in obtaining grant money for the project, Muhammad said. Justices of the Peace Herman Ginger and Edward Spears and others are also actively supporting the cause, she added.
Muhammad said she has been in contact with the Pine Bluff, Dollarway, Watson Chapel and White Hall school districts to garner their involvement in the effort. She said the districts have expressed interest, and she is hoping students will generate additional enthusiasm with their art and essays on King.