King monument didn’t come cheap, thanks to King family

On the eve of this weekend’s dedication, a reminder of the King kin’s greed (originally posted 4/17/09):

A few years back they sold their father’s words and image to a communications company — “I have a dream … that everyone will use Cingular wirless service.”

This is worse:

The family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has charged the foundation building a monument to the civil rights leader on the National Mall about $800,000 for the use of his words and image — an arrangement one leading scholar says King would have found offensive. …

“I don’t think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family … I don’t think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington,” said Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of King. “One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny.”

King would have been “absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children,” Garrow said.

The profiteering has been going on for years, as Cynthia Tucker reported in a 2001 column.

Dexter King, second son of the famous civil rights crusader, had a dream. He wanted to turn his father’s legacy into a cash machine like Elvis Presley’s. So six years ago, he made two visits to Graceland, Presley’s Memphis home, to find out how to turn his dream into dollars. And now the younger King’s vision is finally taking shape.

Images of his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., are being used in commercials for Atlanta-based Cingular, a cellular telephone company, and Alcatel, a French telecommunications company. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, once a soul-stirring appeal to America’s conscience, is now nothing more than a cheap appeal to the nation’s never-satiated appetite for the latest consumer gadget.

In the Cingular commercial, King’s words are heard alongside those of Kermit the Frog.