The John Lewis Tribute Task Force announced Thursday that Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson would create a sculpture to honor the late Democratic congressman; the sculpture of the civil rights leader will stand outside the historic Decatur courthouse where a Confederate monument once stood.
In the wake of the George Floyd killing in June 2020, the DeKalb County Superior Court ordered the removal of the obelisk erected in 1908; the judge declared the monument to be a public nuisance, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After Lewis’ death in July 2021, Dekalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson worked with Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett to form the task force to find a way to honor the late congressman.
According to the task force’s website, the county commission unanimously voted in January 2021 to create a memorial site to Lewis in front of the courthouse, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was sentenced to four month’s hard labor after he joined Atlanta students in civil disobedience in 1960.
In 2021, the county said the task force received proposals from 24 artists, and since then has raised about $600,000 for the project in a mixture of public and private funds. Watson is known in Georgia for a 12-foot-tall statue to King erected in 2021 outside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Watson will begin work on the statue, starting with clay before casting it in bronze, with an unveiling expected in 2024.
“We are thrilled to have reached this milestone in the life of the Task Force and we are so pleased that we found a world-renowned artist who captures the soul and spirit of his subjects,” Garrett said in a press release. “This project has been a labor of love for all of us who knew and loved Congressman Lewis. He served our district and the world with such honor and distinction. His statue will stand as a reminder to all who pass that once this great but humble man walked among us, and we are happy we elected him over and over to serve us and the world. He was truly the conscience of the Congress.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Lewis” by John Lewis. Background Photo “DeKalb County Courthouse” by Daniel Mayer. CC BY-SA 3.0.