The U.S. Capitol is going to see a couple new faces, albeit in stone form. Last month, the Arkansas 92nd General Assembly decided to donate two new statues to the U.S. Capitol to replace the statues of two Arkansans—lawyer Uriah Milton Rose and Gov. James Paul Clarke, both of which have been in the Capitol for nearly a century.
So who are the new fresh faces? Civil rights activist Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.
Bates served as president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized the Little Rock Nine in 1957. She died in 1999.
Cash was one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. He died in 2003. In doing my research for this article, I learned that Cash grew up on an Arkansas farm, which was given to his family as part of the New Deal. The Cash family was given 20 acres of fertile land and a five-bedroom house.
Each state is allowed two statues in the U.S. Capitol. States are responsible for donating statues, and the statue must depict someone who is deceased.
If you’ve ever been to the Capitol, or even watched news coverage of the State of the Union, you may recognize Statuary Hall. It has relatively low ceilings and large burgundy curtains, and of course statues. Once the meeting place of the U.S. House of Representatives, Statuary Hall now holds 35 of the state-donated 100 statues. The rest of the statues are located in the Capitol Visitors Center, the Capitol Rotunda, and prominent locations throughout the Capitol.
The process of securing a statue in the U.S. Capitol typically begins in a state legislature via a resolution naming the citizen the statue is to be modeled after. Then, fundraising begins, and a sculptor is chosen and commissioned to complete the statue. From there, the process will take a few years to be finalized, delivered and dedicated.
A decision on where the old Arkansas statues will be placed has yet to be made, though both will likely head back south to Arkansas.
Another expected statue switcheroo comes from the state of North Carolina. Plans for a statue to honor the beloved evangelist Billy Graham have been in the works since 2015, long before his death in February 2018. He will replace the statue of former North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock. Graham lied in honor in the U.S. Capitol after his passing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the greatest agricultural figures of all time, Norman Borlaug. The state of Iowa placed his statue in the Capitol in 2014, which was sculpted after the iconic photo of Borlaug in a wheat field 1964. Borlaug is credited with saving a billion lives, and it says so right there on his statue.
The next time you’re in Washington, give him a visit.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.