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The first time he saw a piece of rock, August Williams said he shed a tear.

It was the piece of rock that became the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C.

Williams, a stonemason, came out of retirement to work on the memorial, which was unveiled in August 2011. Williams presented at the Calvert County Historical Society’s Third-Thursday Brown Bag Lunch Program on Feb. 21 at Linden in Prince Frederick.

A press release from the historical society named Williams as one of two African-Americans to work on the 30-foot-tall memorial, which depicts a statue of King emerging from a piece of mountain.

Williams explained that the stone was shipped from China and the architect was Lei Yixin, whom Williams called “Master Lei.” Master Lei worked with a crew of 12 Asian stonemasons, with whom Williams joined.

“It finally got done and it’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” Williams said. “I went because I felt I had to be there.”

The formal name for the memorial — which Williams said was completed in three pieces — is “Out of the Mountain of Despair Came the Stone of Hope.”

He said the statue of King took 30 days to build, but the entire project lasted for a year. Williams said the memorial was funded through donations and private funding.

“It was a challenge because I’m very outspoken,” Williams said, becoming emotional. “But I wasn’t there to be arrogant; I was there with a purpose. … This was truly a pleasure for me to be there.”

There was one item on which Williams said he was outspoken. He said there is a quote on the side of the memorial, which he said “does not depict who Dr. King was.”

Though Williams did not specify what the quote was, he said he was in contact with Master Lei, who planned to “erase” the quote using etchings.

Williams also said there were actually two heads made for King since the first one did not resemble King closely enough.

“It had more nice points than not. Each day, you had a different sense of accomplishment,” he said.

Williams said he was planning to write a book about the memorial’s construction, about which he said there might also be a movie. He said he saved some pieces of the stone and sometimes gives them to people as they visit the memorial.

Williams said he was taught stonemasonry by Italian craftsmen.

“This was before we had all of those stick toys,” he said.

Guffrie Smith, the president of the Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth, attended Williams’ presentation and said he personally saw the impact of the memorial when he took a group of students to see it firsthand.

For Williams, this was the purpose of his involvement.

“It’s going to be there when we’re gone. It’s going to be there for ages,” he said.



ldukes@somdnews.com