Rea­gan bust OK’d for Capi­tol Hill; ‘Or­a­tor’ King booted

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Eric Pfeif­fer

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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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