Towering legend, flawed man? King's image evolving

By BRETT ZONGKER and SAMANTHA GROSS | January 15, 2012 | 10:45 AM EST

In this Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, photo, quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., are inscribed in the wall at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial as it is seen at dusk ahead of its dedication this weekend in Washington. A quote carved in stone on the new Martin Luther King memorial in Washington will be changed after the inscription was criticized for not accurately reflecting the civil rights leader's words. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Americans honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., the image of the slain civil rights leader is evolving.

Monday's holiday honors King's birthday, 44 years after he was assassinated. Those reflecting on his legacy in Washington and New York are seeing two almost contradictory portrayals. In Washington, he's a towering, heroic figure carved in stone. On the Broadway stage, he's a living, breathing man who chain smokes and occasionally curses.

Gloria Drake of Cheraw, S.C., gazed upon the King Memorial in Washington and said she remembered King as a figure like Moses, leading his people to the promised land.

Natalie Pertz says King's more human portrayal on stage is an important reminder that it is not beyond the reach of ordinary people to change the world.