President Donald Trump signed a bill that upgraded the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia to a national historic park. The historic park will become the first park of its kind in the Southern state.
Trump signed the bill aboard Air Force One as he traveled to Marietta, Georgia, for the University of Georgia versus University of Alabama college football national championship game, according to USA Today.
Accompanying Trump for the signing was Alveda King, the civil rights leader's niece.
"Through his life and work, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made America more just and free," said White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley to reporters on the aircraft. "This important historical park tells his story, and this bill will help ensure that the park continues to tell Dr. King’s story for generations to come."
The bill has not been amended since it passed in the House on March 15, 2017, according to congressional records. It will replace the current site boundaries with an expanded map proposed in June 2015. The bill passed the Senate in December 2017.
USA Today reports that the national park, which already includes the house where King was born, the church where he was baptized, and his burial site, will now also include the Prince Hall Masonic Temple, which was used by King as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's headquarters.
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, has sought for greater protections for the site for years, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He argued that the change in designation would give more resources to the site, such as park rangers, educational programs and community grants.
While the bill was not considered costly or controversial, it was unknown whether the bill would be signed given that Lewis is a staunch critic of the president. CNN reports that he had boycotted the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because Trump was scheduled to speak.
Trump has criticized Lewis and his district, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but signed the bill on Jan. 9.
"It was my great honor to sign H.R. 267, the 'Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act,' which redesignates the Martin Luther King, Junior, National Historic Site in the State of Georgia as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park," Trump said on Twitter.
Similarly, Lewis put aside his disagreements with the president to praise the passing of the bill in a Twitter post.
"I am so proud that we were able to work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to establish Georgia’s first National Historical Park in Dr. King’s name and legacy before what would be his 89th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his tragic assassination," Lewis wrote.
Sources: USA Today, CNN, Congress.gov, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Donald J. Trump/Twitter, John Lewis/Twitter / Featured Image: National Park Service Digital Image Archives via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Donald J. Trump/Twitter, Dick DeMarsico/New York World-Telegram via Wikimedia Commons