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MLK Memorial Fix Nearly Complete

Renovation work to remove a controversial paraphrased quote from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial wrapped up Thursday night, thanks to a creative sandblasting technique executed by the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center.

Workers used a fine powder called jetmag to smooth the surface of the sculpture under the direction of Sculptor Master Lei Yixin, who flew in from China to chisel over the paraphrased quote, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

Scaffolding should be removed from the monument on Saturday, NPS spokeswoman Carol Johnson said, ensuring that the 30-foot likeness of King is ready for the Aug. 28 anniversary celebration of his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The Historic Preservation Training Center took over the project when workers from the crew originally contracted by the NPS, Baltimore-based Worcester Eisenbrandt, Inc., hit a snag. Insurance in the company’s contract would not cover the sandblasting technique Yixin requested to smooth the stone’s surface. A failed attempt to smooth the stone with walnut shells left an oily stain late last week.

Johnson said the Historic Preservation Training Center tried Wednesday morning to smooth the surface with glass beads. “It was good but it wasn’t perfect,” she said, so workers suggested jetmag, although they didn’t have it on hand. A crew traveled to Pennsylvania to pick up the materials that night, and began blasting on Thursday morning.

Yixin was happy with the result, Johnson said, so crews continued to work throughout the day and were putting the finishing touches on the statue Friday.

The NPS completed another project key to the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech on Friday morning. Crews removed the final remnants of green paint that was splattered the Lincoln Memorial in an act of suspected vandalism.

“The scaffolding is down, the chamber is open and the statue is not impeded,” Johnson reported.