Manifestation of a dream -- Attorney helped oversee King memorial project for 10 years


By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Attorney Rod Gillum will never forget hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s ''I Have a Dream'' speech at Woodward and Jefferson in downtown Detroit not long before the civil rights leader delivered it in Washington.

The speech had such an impact, Gillum memorized it and delivered it to classmates in a speech class at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School his senior year.

''It was a very moving speech at the time, and it stayed with me,'' said Gillum, a partner at Jackson Lewis LLP's Southfield office after retiring in 2009 from General Motors.

As chairman of the Memorial Foundation Board of Directors, Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., Gillum has helped oversee the project for the past decade.

The King Memorial Dedication scheduled on August 28th, the 48th anniversary of King's emotion-packed speech at the Lincoln Memorial, was postponed due to hurricane Irene. It will be rescheduled.''The GM team decided we wanted to take an active role in helping to establish this legacy to teach not only current but also future generations about the work of Dr. King,'' said Gillum, noting that the General Motors Foundation is the largest corporate contributor to the memorial.

The Ford Motor Co. Fund and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation were also large contributors.

The memorial is the first on the National Mall to commemorate the work of a citizen of color who is not a president or war veteran.

As chairman of the board, Gillum provided oversight to all aspects of the $120 million memorial, from the design to construction to fundraising.He hopes visits to the memorial will have a lasting impact on visitors.

''Here you have an individual who set a vision for us as to what can be as individuals and what can be as a nation,'' he said. ''Dr. King made us stretch our imaginations. And because of that, our sights were illuminated, clearly as a race of people, but I think in general. All mankind understand we could be more, we could do more, and we could become more.''

Gillum said he appreciates that fact that his firm allows him to spend the necessary time as chairman.

''It's nice to see it all come to reality,'' he said.

The memorial features a 450-foot granite wall inscribed with 14 of King's most notable quotes, as well as a 30-foot granite statue of King called ''Stone of Hope.'' The area is surrounded by cherry trees.

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Published: Thu, Sep 1, 2011