Replace the Stephens Statue in the U.S. Capitol Building

The Georgia House may soon consider a resolution, HR 14, to create a committee to replace the statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol with a statue of the late-Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). The move is one that’s long overdue.

For those who may not be familiar with National Statuary Hall Collection, each state may send two statues for display in the U.S. Capitol. Those statues are on display in one of a few different locations around the U.S. Capitol, including the Old Hall of the House (now known as Statuary Hall), where the House met from 1819 to 1857, and the Crypt. The Stephens statue was has been on display since 1927. The other statue Georgia sent to be a part of the collection, honoring Crawford Long, was sent in 1926 and is on display in the Crypt.

The U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation last year, H.R. 7573, to remove a bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the infamous Dred Scott opinion in 1857, and statues and busts of Confederate officers and military from public areas of the U.S. Capitol. The Taney bust would have been replaced with one of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

H.R. 7573 passed with bipartisan support, but it wasn’t considered in the Senate.

Georgia’s statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who was the vice president of the Confederacy and gave the disgusting “Cornerstone Speech” in Savannah in March 1861, would’ve been among the statues removed from Statuary Hall had H.R. 7573 become law.

Federal law does allow states to replace statues that are on display as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, although the statue must meet certain criteria in law, as well as regulations issued by the Joint Committee on the Library.

Last year, then-Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), now a contributor at Peach Pundit, introduced a resolution to replace the Stephens statue with one of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Full disclosure: I encouraged Scot to introduce the resolution.) U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) offered his support for the resolution, which, unfortunately, wasn’t considered.

However, this year, there does appear to be movement on HR 14. This resolution would replace the Stephens statue with one honoring John Lewis, a civil rights movement hero who passed away in July.

Considering that Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the second signer on the resolution, passage in the House seems likely. HR 14 was approved in committee earlier this month. Gov. Brian Kemp has also expressed his support for replacing the Stephens statue with one honoring John Lewis. The resolution is now on the Rules Calendar and waiting to be called up for a vote.

Georgia needs a statue on display in the National Statuary Hall Collection that we can be proud of. HR 14 is long overdue, and one would be hard-pressed to find someone more deserving of the honor than John Lewis.

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