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Georgia lawmakers pass measure for Martin Luther King Jr statue

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia lawmakers have passed a measure allowing a monument to be erected on the state Capitol grounds to honor late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., nearly a half century after the Georgia-born Nobel Peace Prize winner's assassination.

The bill, which won final approval on Tuesday and now goes to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature, calls for the monument to be constructed with private funds "as soon as practicable" once licensing rights for King's image have been obtained from his estate.

Deal, a Republican, has said he favors honoring King on the Capitol grounds, but a spokesman declined to comment about the legislation on Wednesday.

The tribute to King, who was born in Atlanta just a few blocks from the state Capitol, is long overdue, said one of the measure's sponsors.

"We're elated," said the sponsor, Democratic state Representative Tyrone Brooks. "Paying a tribute to Dr. King in his hometown is the greatest honor we can bestow on him."

Last year, a monument to the late Thomas Watson, a former U.S. senator known for his racist, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views, was moved from the front steps of the Georgia Capitol to a park across the street.

King, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his nonviolent campaign for civil rights and social justice, was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 1968.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Stephen Powell)

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