Progress at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

A glimpse at Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial construction site Wednesday showed a lot of progress.

The project started with Dr. King's fraternity brothers wanting to honor the champion of civil rights. Now that dream -- the National Mall's first memorial for an individual who wasn't president -- is less than a year away from reality.

At a glance, the memorial still looks like any other construction site on a cloudy day. But Wednesday morning, the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation said 20 years after the idea was born, the tribute to King is 55 percent complete.

"When future generations visit Washington, they will see a Mall that is more closely reflecting the diversity of our great nation," said Harry Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

The memorial will sit on four acres near the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and include a bookstore and visitor center.

Thirteen years of quotes from King's books, letters and speeches will be displayed on 355 granite panels.

At the center of this $120 million project, Dr. King's words are given form: "a mountain of despair" -- through which visitors will be able to walk -- and "a stone of hope," which bears a 28-foot tall sculpture of King less than a month from completion.

"This is not just a memorial to one man, it is a memorial to everyone who has ever benefited from Dr. King's ideals of hope, democracy, justice and equality," said John Montford, chairman of General Motors Foundation and co-chair of the Memorial Foundation’s Executive Leadership Cabinet.

Even a monument to peace has caused some controversy. The MLK Foundation hired a Chinese sculptor. For this final phase, he's brought 10 Chinese artisans to Washington angering local bricklayers and craft workers.

"We worked with the union to bring in additional stone masons to work with master Lei and his team,” Johnson said. “So they're on site working with him, right now. So we're proud of the fact that we're being inclusive with this memorial."

Although a virtual video tour shows a spectacular tribute to Dr. King and all that he fought and died for, the Foundation still has $12 million to raise before the memorial opens.

"We feel that when citizens across this country and world see this vertical motion of what's going on now, that they will also agree with many of you who have already given, that they ought to be a part of this memorial," said Johnson.

The King Memorial is set to open in August 2011.

To learn more about the memorial and donating, go to

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