Georgia man restores MLK Bible for Obama inauguration

GEORGIA – A metro Atlanta man has painstakingly restored a Bible that belonged to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. so it can be used in Monday’s presidential inauguration.

Gordon Ponsford, who lives in the Acworth area of Georgia, was commissioned by the King Center to prepare the leather-bound King James Bible for the president’s swearing-in ceremony.

In a symbolic milestone, Obama will take the oath of office for his second term with his hand placed not on a single Bible, but two – the one owned by Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln’s.

Ponsford, 54, a sought-after conservator, told theGrio he performed relatively minor “stabilization” work using adhesives to attach the loose leather to the slain civil rights leader’s Bible. King’s Bible was then shipped to D.C. in a traveling box constructed by the National Library Bindery in Georgia.

“It’s an honor to think that that Bible was in King’s hands at one time and has now been passed onto Obama,” said Ponsford. “No amount of words can describe how thrilled I am to have worked on this project.”

King used the bible to prepare his first sermon as a pastor, at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He also carried it with him as his “traveling Bible,” on the road for inspiration and to prepare speeches and sermons.

Ponsford, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years, is not fazed working on major historical projects. He has restored former President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech and has completed restoration work on gravesites of former President Kennedy, and his brother Robert, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

This is only the second time that Inauguration Day falls on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The only other time this has happened was in 1997 at the start of President Bill Clinton’s second term.

King’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, has said she believes the coinciding dates will heighten people’s awareness of her father’s work and the King holiday. She added that she does not believe inauguration will overshadow the King birthday celebrations.

“President Obama’s upcoming incorporation of both Dr. King and Abraham Lincoln’s Bibles during his Oath of Office is certainly symbolic,” said Dr. Vicki Crawford, Director, Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection. “It calls on us to reflect on the long stream of history and to consider the elements of our democracy, which both Dr. King and Lincoln sought to advance.”

“As the public witnesses this historic milestone on Monday, we must not forget the struggles and sacrifices of those in the long movement for freedom, justice and equality. This is a compelling moment to look back with reflection and to look forward with hope.”

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