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Civic Art      
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County Collection

(State Art Collection) Compton Civic Center

King Memorial

Harold L. Williams and Gerald Gladstone
Gateway/South LA
Compton Civic Center
205 S. Willowbrook Avenue
Compton, CA 90220
Parks & Recreation

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Project Description

Originally designed and conceived as a fountain, the King Memorial is a sweeping tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The memorial, commissioned by Los Angeles County and the City of Compton Civic Center Authority, is situated as the focal point of a plaza surrounding the Compton Civic Center and was originally designed to feature a 70-foot stream of water shooting through the center of the structure. The monument derives its symbolic impact from its simplicity of design and clean, straight lines. Arranged in the classically harmonious shape of a circle, multiple identical white panels rise up at varying angles and meet at a central circular form.

According to the Civic Center’s architect, Harold L. Williams, the designers as well as the artist Gerald Gladstone wanted to bring a community quality to the architecture that would project the feeling of open space. The work evokes the form of a mountain, reflecting Dr. King’s own statement that he had “been to the mountain top.” The magnificent, minimalist structure surrounded by planters and benches serves as a perfect spot to sit and ponder Dr. King’s philosophies and his global impact.

Per the trial Court Funding Act of 1997 and the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002 courthouse buildings are being transferred from County to State ownership. The artwork is part of the property and is now owned by the State of California.

Historic information provided courtesy of African-American Architects of Los Angeles: Oral History Transcript, 1989-1990, interview with Harold L. Williams by Wesley Howard Henderson; UCLA Library Special Collection.

About the Artist

Harold L. Williams was the ninth African-American architect to be licensed in Los Angeles. He worked with Paul Williams before moving to the architecture firm of Orr, Strange, and Inslee. In 1960 he established his own architecture firm in partnership with Virgil A. Meeds and Leonard Brunswick. His many projects in Los Angeles include the Compton City Hall (1976), South Central Los Angeles Multiservice and Child Development Center (1976), State Office Building in Van Nuys (1982), and Fire Station Number Three in Compton (1989).

Gerald Gladstone (1929-2005) was a Canadian sculptor raised in Toronto. In the 1950s Gladstone exhibited with a group of Toronto artists in a gallery operated by Av Isaacs. He received his first Canada Council of the Arts grant in 1959 and traveled to London, England where he studied with renowned sculptor Henry Moore. Later in 1967, Gladstone was granted three major commissions for Montreal’s Expo 67 and in 2003 he was given a retrospective exhibition by the Art Gallery of Ontario.