In an exclusive interview with Loop 21, chief architect of the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial, Dr. Ed Jackson spoke about this weekend’s upcoming dedication. He reveals he’s been attached to the project since 1996 and that the controversy surrounding the sculptor of the MLK statue being Asian were completely unwarranted.
Loop 21: Do you feel the monument came out as you first envisioned?
Dr. Ed Jackson: I had envisioned a memorial in honor of Dr. King that would be equal to the vision and the emotional and intellectual prowess that the other memorials on the Mall possess; the memorial to Lincoln, the memorial to Jefferson, to FDR and President Washington. I had envisioned from the very start, King, just like the other American citizens, although he was not a president, that his contribution to what America stood for and what America should be about was equal to their contributions to the creation of America, who we are and what we stand for. So it was our obligation to make certain that the end product of how we represented his message would be just as powerful as the first lines that you read when you walk into the Lincoln Memorial: Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth this nation…
Do you feel, now that it’s all said and done, that the controversy over the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was petty?
Well, when you are about the business of creating something new, obviously everyone is not going to have the same viewpoint that you have about the product. And by and large, the diversity of opinions came from a variety of sources. The ones that concerned me the most, were the ones that are uttered in ignorance. So I knew based on the research that we had done and based on the product that this particular artist had produced that we had the best possible design solution that could be generated from an artist anywhere in the world. The likeness was so uncanny it took my breath away when I first saw it. When he sent me an email of his clay version of the head that was three feet high, the first words that came to my mind were, “He nailed it! He got it.”