Reagan bust OK’d for Capitol Hill; ‘Orator’ King booted
Nearly twenty years after leaving office, Ronald Reagan is coming back to Washington. California lawmakers have voted to place a bronze bust of the former president in the Capitol Rotunda and alongside other national luminaries such as Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston and Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The bust of Mr. Reagan, who was often referred to as “the great communicator,” will replace that of Thomas Starr King, “the orator who saved the nation.” King is credited with keeping California in the Union during the Civil War.
King’s bust has resided in the National Statuary Hall since 1931. Lincoln once credited King with preventing California from splitting from the Union to form its own republic during the war.
Each state is allowed to have two bronze statues bearing the likeness of figures instrumental to the state’s history. In 2000, Congress voted to allow state legislatures to replace their state’s statues. Since then, only one state, Kansas, has chosen to do so. Kansas replaced the likeness of former Gov. George Washington Glick with one of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“As the only governor of California to serve as president of the United States, Ronald Reagan is a clear choice for a delegate to Statuary Hall,” said Grover Norquist, head of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, an organization that works to have landmarks named after the former president. Mr. Norquist also leads Americans for Tax Reform, a group that promotes federal candidates for office.
In addition to his reputation as a fiery orator, King’s legacy includes raising millions of dollars for state sanitary commissions in New York and California, which helped to care for wounded soldiers. After his death in 1864, mountain peaks in Yosemite National Park and New Hampshire were named in his honor.
The National Statuary Hall is located next to the Capitol Rotunda and served as the original House chambers when the Capitol was first erected. After a new House chamber was built, it was decided in 1853 that the room should be used to house works of art, according to Capitol Architect spokeswoman Eva Malecki.
Ms. Malecki said busts of former presidents, including Eisenhower and Lincoln, are typically housed in the Rotunda. However, it’s still unclear whether Mr. Reagan’s bust will be there or along with the other statues in the Statuary Hall. “That will be up to Congress to determine,” Ms. Malecki said.
Mr. Reagan’s statue will ac- company that of Junipero Serra, the Roman Catholic founder of nine California missions. Mr. Reagan, elected governor of California in 1967, served two terms before pursuing the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.
The resolution to replace Mr. King’s bust with Mr. Reagan’s was passed on Aug. 31 by the California Legislature with only one lawmaker, Sen. Debra Bowen, voting no. Mrs. Bowen is a member of the Unitarian Church, as was Mr. King.
The resolution’s author, Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, said lawmakers had plenty of time to address any concerns with the change because his resolution was first introduced in 2005. “Folks who have raised opposition have tried to make it sound like a last-minute thing,” Mr. Hollingsworth said in an interview with the Associated Press. “But there were two years where the bill was able to be analyzed and scrutinized.”
The California-based Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation will fund the project and commission a sculptor for the bust. The foundation also will pay to have the bust of King transferred to Sacramento. Mr. Hollingsworth said having the King statue in his state’s Capitol will help Californians become more familiar with his legacy.
“Now fourth-graders on school field trips will have the opportunity to get to know King better.”
California lawmakers voted to remove the statue of Thomas Starr King from the U.S. Capitol to make room for a bronze bust of former President Ronald Reagan.