Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Fund for Martin Luther King Jr. memorial reaches $76 million with 3 new donors

By BRETT ZONGKER, The Associated Press
Jan 13, 2007 12:10 PM (2 hrs 46 mins ago)

WASHINGTON – Gifts from three corporations to be announced Monday will bring the fund to build a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. to $76 million – more than three-quarters of the way to the project’s goal.

Health insurance provider Cigna Corp., Shell Oil Co. and the Verizon Foundation are each announcing $1 million donations to help build the memorial to the slain civil rights leader on the National Mall. Formal announcements were planned for the holiday honoring King – by Verizon in Washington and by Cigna in Philadelphia.

“We’re so appreciative of those companies that will come on board, and how excited we are that they want to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the memorial’s foundation. “We expect and hope we’ll raise the rest of the funds by the end of the year.”

The effort to raise $100 million to build and maintain the memorial began seven years ago with an initial $10 million donation by General Motors Corp., followed by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger’s $5 million. To date, 26 corporations have given $1 million or more to the memorial fund.

“By getting to $76 million, I’m feeling much better about getting to the $100 million sooner, rather than later, because I think more and more corporations are hearing about it,” said GM Global Vice President Gary Cowger, chairman of the memorial fundraising effort.

The memorial and a visitor’s center will be located on the banks of the Tidal Basin between the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial – not far from where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

In the fall, ground was broken for the memorial in a ceremony with King’s children, prominent civil rights leaders, celebrities and politicians including President Bush, former President Bill Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

The memorial is scheduled to open in the spring of 2008 and will be the first monument for a civilian and black leader on the National Mall.

“We wanted to be part of the effort because we really do believe that it is an appropriate and fitting tribute,” said Cigna Chief Executive Officer Edward Hanway.

Verizon’s gift is meant to underwrite educational programs at the memorial’s visitors center, which will provide interactive displays, streaming video and an Internet site with lessons about King’s core values of equality, justice and community building, said Patrick Gaston, president of Verizon Foundation.

“When we look at Martin Luther King’s dream, in order for the dream to stay alive, we really have to make sure folks are educated about the significance of MLK’s contributions,” he said. “This is a great way of creating a bridge from the 1960s during the times of the civil rights struggle to our current society, where we think this knowledge and information is critical for kids.”

Donations to the fund are coming from a broad cross-section of the nation’s businesses and communities, but Johnson said even the small donations are appreciated.

One man in Alabama “religiously sends in five bucks every month,” Johnson said. “We certainly encourage the everyday American and everyday citizen from the world to get involved in this – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say that you would have a role in building the memorial to Dr. King.” and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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