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Doctor carves his patriotic vision in monument

Todd King, an installer with Oakhurst Signs, levels a slab before the concrete is poured for one of four, 6-foot-tall granite and limestone structures at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N. The structures will soon be accompanied by an American flag.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Todd King, an installer with Oakhurst Signs, levels a slab before the concrete is poured for one of four, 6-foot-tall granite and limestone structures at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N. The structures will soon be accompanied by an American flag.

ST. PETERSBURG

Neurosurgeon David McKalip has a lot to say about health care, taxes, freedom, foreign policy and the economy, in sum, life and politics in these United States.

He has laid out his position in blogs, speeches, newspaper op-ed pieces and letters.

Now, after a year of drawing and scribbling in a yellow, spiral-bound notebook, the tea partier and Ron Paul supporter has devised a way to encapsulate his patriotism in a public way — four, 6-foot-tall granite and limestone structures with favored sayings and images, and soon to soar overhead, an American flag on a bronze 35-foot pole.

McKalip's creation, which he has christened Founders Corner, occupies an optimum spot at the busy southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N. Coincidentally, his homage to the nation's heritage rises amid concentric circles of roadway with the names Washington and Jefferson.

Days before concrete was to be poured for the tableau on a vacant lot McKalip owns adjacent to his office, the conservative activist spoke passionately about the motivation behind the project.

"America is in big trouble,'' he said.

"We are facing economic challenges that are very severe. We are in endless wars. We are no longer a society of individual responsibility and it's time for Americans to remember what made them great and I'm confident if Americans were to embrace these sayings I'm going to illustrate, we're going to prosper in ways we never thought possible.''

The sayings he referred to have been taken from the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation, the Bible and other material. He also has included quotes from philosophers and economists he admires, as well as images and sayings of figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus.

His selections illustrate America's founding principles, said McKalip, who headlined the double-sided monuments with tea party catchphrases such as "limited government," "free markets," "property rights" and "individual liberty."

His costly endeavor has won praise from Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock.

"I think it's wonderful that a private individual is going to undertake a project like this and give our community cause to stop and remember our Founding Fathers and to appreciate what they set into motion so many years ago, the foundations for our freedom and liberty today,'' she said.

State Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who will speak at the dedication on Saturday, is similarly enthusiastic.

"I'm an ardent supporter of private property rights and free speech and Dr. McKalip is exercising his rights for both," he said.

Among other Republicans expected at the dedication are state Rep. Jim Frishe and Seminole City Council member Leslie Waters, though McKalip said his invitation list includes elected officials of both parties.

"We will not be pushing any political, partisan agenda,'' he said.

McKalip also has asked his pastor, the Rev. John Tapp of Holy Family Catholic Church, to say the opening prayer for the unveiling of what may be only the second such display created on private property in Pinellas County.

The other was built in 1998 by Fred Thomas, a former Clearwater city commissioner. His 10-foot-high, 120-foot-long granite wall rose in what was known as Freedom Park, at Chestnut Street and East Avenue, in Clearwater. Etched on the monument were the Ten Commandments, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the teachings of Jesus Christ. A 7-Eleven is now on the site.

McKalip, 45, who had not heard of the Thomas project, said a decade of study underpins his undertaking.

"I've always been interested in community activism and the role of government,'' he said, going on to describe himself as a former "bleeding heart liberal.''

The turning point came after he went into private practice and had children. Then the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and his subsequent participation in domestic preparedness revealed, he said, "how ineffective government was in doing its most basic function."

McKalip, who graduated from the University of South Florida College of Medicine and trained in the neurosurgery residency program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, raised money for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. He speaks proudly of his appearance on the Glenn Beck show, refers to the tea party as the liberty movement and has been known to urge fellow thinkers to "fight peacefully to take our country back."

The father of three made headlines in 2009, when he forwarded an e-mail to about 150 people with an image portraying President Barack Obama as a witch doctor in a loin cloth and headdress with bones in his nose. Afterward he apologized for sending the missive captioned, "ObamaCare, coming soon to a clinic near you."

State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who at the time called for McKalip's resignation from leadership of the Pinellas County Medical Association, is unsure of the motives behind the doctor's patriotic display.

"If it's about the American principles upon which we were founded, including embracing diversity in all of its beauty, then it's a great thing. If it's about exclusion and celebration of extremism, then I question the motives,'' said the former president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP.

"There is room in America for divergent viewpoints and that is the beauty of the First Amendment, the right of a person to express their deep-held beliefs and their political opinions, which is what he's doing. But it doesn't mean I have to like the opinion."

McKalip has also invited the Rev. Louis Murphy of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, one of the city's largest predominantly African-American congregations.

Murphy says he will be out of town, but would not have attended, because of what he described as the tea party's barely veiled racism toward the country's first African-American president.

"Certainly the Founding Fathers have contributed significantly to the country, to the world, but I think that we have a president that in the future we will see has done a remarkable job in turning our economy around,'' Murphy said.

"I really don't want to align myself with some of the hatred that I've seen.''

McKalip hopes his display will become a popular attraction.

Across the state, he said, fellow tea partiers are considering erecting similar monuments of their own.

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

>> If you go

Dedication

Founders Corner dedication, 2-5 p.m. Saturday, southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N, St. Petersburg. Speeches, Boy Scout flag ceremony, patriotic merchandise and food vendors; face painting, relay races and live music. Free. Learn more online at founderscorner.us.

Doctor carves his patriotic vision in monument 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 12:03pm]
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