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King’s Capitol portrait grows with surroundings

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., right, president and chief executive officer of the King Center, applauds Monday as Secretary of State Cathy Cox, left, and the Rev. Bernice King, center, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., unveil a new portrait of the late civil rights leader that will be hung in the state Capitol in Atlanta.Ric Feld / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

After decades of being dwarfed by the framed faces of other dignitaries, the portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in Georgia’s Capitol has been enlarged.

The new painting, unveiled in an elaborate ceremony Monday, is 50 percent larger than the old one, which had become surrounded by bigger and bigger portraits of Georgia politicians.

“It was never anyone’s interest to diminish King’s stature. But the unintended effect of adding other larger portraits nearby over the last three decades has created that doubt in the minds of some of our young visitors,” said Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

The new portrait, which hangs outside the governor’s office, features a pensive King standing before a stormy backdrop.

The older painting, which depicts King seated at the foot of a shadowy Lincoln Memorial, will begin a tour of the Georgia public schools that have been named for the Nobel laureate.

King’s portrait was dedicated in 1974 by former Gov. Jimmy Carter while members of the Ku Klux Klan chanted their opposition outside.

Thirty-two years later, some of Georgia’s top politicians were on hand to celebrate the new painting, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and Cox.

Several of King’s relatives called the ceremony bittersweet, noting that King’s late widow, Coretta Scott King, had lobbied for the larger painting in the months before her death in January.