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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release January 17, 2000
                   LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

     Atlanta, GA -- Vice President Al Gore today commemorated Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr. Day by announcing new steps designed to preserve the legacy of one of our nation's greatest and most influential civil rights leader.

Specifically, Gore announced that the Administration will seek $1.5 million in federal funding in the fiscal year 2001 budget to help protect both the home where Dr. King was born and his burial site, along with nearby buildings. In addition, the Vice President announced that thanks to a generous contribution by two anonymous donors, Ebenezer Church has now nearly matched the funds awarded it by the White House's "Save America's Treasures" program.

"We must honor and uphold the dreamer," said Vice President Al Gore. "For we have come many miles toward justice, but have not yet fulfilled the dream."

As part of the Lands Legacy Initiative, Vice President Gore said that the National Park Service's budget request for Fiscal Year 2001 will include $1.5 million in funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. The National Park Service currently manages the site as a unit of the National Park System.

Under an innovative proposal, the King Family would donate the birth home and burial site, in conjunction with the acquisition of the King Center and associated buildings by the National Park Service. Today's proposed funding represents the balance of needed federal funding for a partnership involving the King family, the National Park Service and Trust for Public Land, a non-profit conservation group.

The Administration's request for the upcoming fiscal year follows President Clinton's proposal last month to provide $3.5 million in FY 2000 funds for the first portion of the funding. The estimated federal cost to acquire the adjacent buildings is $5.0 million. If approved by Congress, today's announcement of $1.5 million for the second portion of the funding would provide the estimated necessary funding.

Upon purchase, the buildings would be managed for education and other public purposes.

In addition, the Vice President praised the joint public and private efforts to revitalize Ebenezer Baptist Church, a National Historic Landmark closely associated with the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was at Ebenezer Church that at the age of 19, Dr. King was ordained. And it was to Ebenezer where he would return to preach his message of non-violent, social change.

Last year, this historic and holy place of worship was designated an official "American Treasure" by the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In an effort to save this precious and irreplaceable landmark from further deterioration, and revitalize it to its former glory, the Ebenezer Baptist Church site was awarded a $620,000 challenge grant through our "Save America's Treasures" program.

The challenge grant funds, 100% of which must be matched in private dollars, will be used to -- among many other things -- repair the building's masonry and stucco walls; refinish its main entrance doors; clean and stabilize the Pipe Organ; and restore the floors, walls and ceilings of Dr. King's office. The Vice President announced today that $500,000, a significant portion of that private match, has been raised and donated to the preservation of this local and national treasure.