It’s out with the old as states re­place his­toric stat­ues at U.S. Capi­tol

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ben Goad

Cal­i­for­nia’s long­est-serv­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the U.S. Capi­tol will soon re­turn home.

The tow­er­ing bronze sculp­ture of Thomas Starr King, a fiery Uni­tar­ian min­is­ter cred­ited with keep­ing Cal­i­for­nia in the Union dur­ing the Civil War, is be­ing re­placed in the Na­tional Stat­u­ary Hall Col­lec­tion with a 7-foot like­ness of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan.

King is not alone. Thanks to a 2000 fed­eral law al­low­ing states to change the two stat­ues they get on Capi­tol Hill, more long-ago lu­mi­nar­ies are be­ing re­placed by images of mod­ern icons.

Some fear the loss of King and other fig­ures from Congress’ prized col­lec­tion of his­toric state stat­ues will cause the man hailed as a saint and pa­triot by the lead­ers of his day to dis­ap­pear into ob­scu­rity.

“Most peo­ple don’t know who the heck Starr King was,” said Jay Roller of the First Uni­tar­ian Church in San Fran­cisco, where the min­is­ter is buried. “Amer­i­cans and his­tory don’t go to­gether very well.”

The King statue, which has stood in the U.S. Capi­tol since 1931, will be sent home and dis­played in the state Capi­tol in Sacra­mento.

King goes the way of for­mer Kansas Gov. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Glick, whose statue was the first to be re­placed. A statue of for­mer Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower dis­placed Glick in 2003.

Alabama and Michi­gan are mov­ing to re­place stat­ues with ones of He­len Keller and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ger­ald R. Ford.

In 2000, Congress passed leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing states to re­place their stat­ues, pro­vided they pass a state res­o­lu­tion.

In the months af­ter Mr. Rea­gan’s 2004 death, state Rep. Ken Calvert sent a let­ter to Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and lead­ers in the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­is­la­ture, urg­ing them to take ac­tion to honor the late pres­i­dent. They unan­i­mously did so on the last day of the 2006 ses­sion.

This sum­mer, the Rea­gan statue is ex­pected to be fin­ished and un­veiled at a cer­e­mony in the Capi­tol Ro­tunda.

“There’s a great af­fec­tion for Ron­ald Rea­gan — not just in Cal­i­for­nia but around the na­tion,” said Mr. Calvert, a Repub­li­can.

Not ev­ery­one was pleased. King bi­og­ra­pher Glenna Matthews called the vote out­ra­geous, say­ing the mea­sure was slipped in with­out proper de­bate. She asked why other im­por­tant Cal­i­for­ni­ans such as for­mer U.S. Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Earl War­ren, leg­endary nat­u­ral­ist and preser­va­tion­ist John Muir, or His­panic la­bor leader Ce­sar Chavez were not con­sid­ered.

“There should have been ro­bust pub­lic dis­cus­sion,” Ms. Matthews said.

Be­yond pre­vent­ing a Golden State se­ces­sion, King founded the West Coast branch of the U.S. San­i­tary Com­mis­sion, an early ver­sion of the Red Cross. But his legacy, al­ready in peril, could be gone af­ter the statue is re­moved, Mr. Roller said.

“I think he has van­ished from the pub­lic con­scious­ness,” he said. “That’s why the Leg­is­la­ture did this.”

But state Sen. Den­nis Hollingsworth, a Repub­li­can and spon­sor of the res­o­lu­tion, de­fended the state’s de­ci­sion, say­ing that far more Cal­i­for­nia school­child­ren and other vis­i­tors would learn about King in Sacra­mento than do so now, with the statue in far-off Wash­ing­ton.

Mr. Rea­gan “was one of the more his­tory-mak­ing pres­i­dents of the 20th cen­tury,” Mr. Hollingsworth said. “It’s a fit­ting recog­ni­tion, a fit­ting me­mo­rial.”

Each state is al­lowed two stat­ues inside the U.S. Capi­tol. States are al­lowed to choose any no­table fig­ures, as long as they are de­ceased. Cal­i­for­nia’s other statue, that of 18th-cen­tury Span­ish mis­sion­ary Ju­nipero Serra, was ac­cepted at the same time as King.

The state sculp­tures, now so nu­mer­ous that they spill out of Stat- uary Hall and through­out the Capi­tol build­ing, dis­play an ar­ray of artis­tic style but must ad­here to a few sim­ple guide­lines: They must be made of mar­ble or bronze, must stand no taller than 7 feet, pedestal not in­cluded, and weigh no more than 10,000 pounds.

The cur­rent 100-statue col­lec­tion ranges from the lit­tle-known — such as for­mer Ne­braska leg­is­la­tor Julius Ster­ling Mor­ton — to more prom­i­nent his­toric fig­ures such as Robert E. Lee and Sa­ca­jawea.

The Ron­ald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Foun­da­tion, the busi­ness and fundrais­ing arm of the Rea­gan Li­brary, com­mis­sioned Chas Fa­gan, a painter and sculp­tor based in North Carolina, to cre­ate a bronze like­ness of the ac­tor who be­came pres­i­dent.

Mr. Fa­gan called the job an honor, say­ing the Stat­u­ary Hall col­lec­tion has long in­spired him, both as an artist and a his­tory buff.

“You get to walk up and meet all of th­ese fa­mous fig­ures,” he said.

Dis­trib­uted by Howard News Ser­vice

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