Stat­ues of Arkansans in D.C. raise query: Rose, Clarke who?

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH D. WIRE

WASH­ING­TON — Vis­i­tors to the U.S. Capi­tol of­ten linger among the 100 stat­ues hon­or­ing fa­mous or im­por­tant res­i­dents from each state.

Ok­la­homa has a statue of ac­tor and hu­morist Will Rogers; Ten­nessee has one of Pres­i­dent An­drew Jack­son.

But re­tired Rogers High School his­tory teacher Richard Bland said that when he saw Arkansas’ stat­ues he was floored.

“I have a Ph.D. in U.S. his­tory, and I couldn’t place im­me­di­ately who James Paul Clarke was,” he said. “And I thought, well maybe we ought to have somebody a lit­tle more rec­og­niz­able than that.”

Years after that ini­tial visit, Bland is work­ing to change the two Arkansans who rep­re­sent the state to the mil­lions of peo­ple who visit the na­tion’s Capi­tol each year.

A few Arkansas law­mak­ers said they support a change, but all in­volved said it won’t be easy to sway rel­a­tives of the men cur­rently en­shrined, or to reach a con­sen­sus on who to memo­ri­al­ize and raise the hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to pay for it.

In 1864, Congress passed a law invit­ing each state to sub­mit up to two bronze or mar­ble stat­ues to be placed in the old House cham­ber, now known as Stat­u­ary Hall. The memo­ri­al­ized peo­ple have to be de­ceased, state res­i­dents and “il­lus­tri­ous for their his­toric renown or for

dis­tin­guished civic or mil­i­tary ser­vices.”

In 1917, the Arkansas Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a mar­ble statue of at­tor­ney Uriah M. Rose, and in 1921 ap­proved a mar­ble statue of U.S. Sen. James P. Clarke, who had also been the state’s gov­er­nor.

Rose, born in Brad­fordsville, Ky., helped found the Rose Law Firm, which still op­er­ates in Lit­tle Rock. He helped found the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, and Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt ap­pointed him as a del­e­gate to the Sec­ond Peace Con­fer­ence at The Hague, Nether­lands, in 1907.

Clarke, born in Ya­zoo City, Miss., moved to Arkansas in 1879 and opened a law prac­tice in He­lena. He was Arkansas gov­er­nor from 1895-1897 and a U.S. se­na­tor from 1903-16. He was Se­nate pres­i­dent pro tem­pore, mak­ing him third in the line of suc­ces­sion for the pres­i­dency.

As more states were cre­ated and the weight of the mar­ble be­came too much, the stat­ues were spread across the Capi­tol and its vis­i­tors cen­ter.

Rose’s statue sits in a cor­ner of Stat­u­ary Hall. Clarke’s is near the en­trance to the Capi­tol vis­i­tors cen­ter, across from the coat-check of­fice.

The stat­ues were in­tended to be per­ma­nent memo­ri­als, but in re­cent decades, states be­gan push­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to change them. In 2000, Congress agreed to al­low states to sub­mit new stat­ues, if the state paid the cost.

Whether to re­place a statue, and with whom, is up to each state leg­is­la­ture, and the state must pay to cre­ate and in­stall the new statue and re­move the old one, as well as foot the bill for the un­veil­ing cer­e­mony.

So far, only a hand­ful of states have switched out their stat­ues.

In 2001, Arkansas Rep. Jeremy Hutchin­son, R-Lit­tle Rock, pro­posed state leg­is­la­tion to re­place Rose’s statue with one of Lit­tle Rock Nine men­tor Daisy Gat­son Bates. The bill died in com­mit­tee.

“I still want it to hap­pen,” said Hutchin­son, now a state se­na­tor. “Daisy Bates makes a far bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who we are, the strug­gles we’ve gone through and the im­prove­ments we’ve made. It would help us live down some of the his­tory that we made that did not put Arkansas in a very good light.”

Congress com­mis­sioned a statue of civil-rights leader Rosa Parks in 2013, but no state is cur­rently rep­re­sented by a statue of a black woman in the Capi­tol build­ing.

Hutchin­son said he thought of it while vis­it­ing his fa­ther, for­mer U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchin­son, in Wash­ing­ton.

“I got a tour, and there were all th­ese great sto­ries about some of th­ese stat­ues that were just en­ter­tain­ing and re­ally in­ter­est­ing. We came to Arkansas, and it was “wah­wah-wah,” he said, mak­ing a noise like a trom­bone.

He hasn’t thought about the project in years, he said, but would con­sider fil­ing the leg­is­la­tion again.

In 2013, state Reps. Sue Scott, R-Rogers, and Dun­can Baird, R-Low­ell, each filed leg­is­la­tion to al­low new stat­ues. Nei­ther bill was con­sid­ered. In­com­ing Gov. Asa Hutchin­son re­cently picked Baird as his bud­get di­rec­tor. Scott said the work will con­tinue.

“In no way are we say­ing that they are not wor­thy,” Scott said of Rose and Clarke. But, “it’s time to change it and have some­one else’s statue there.”

Bland and a group of friends worked on the bill with Scott in 2013. He said he rec­og­nizes that Rose and Clarke still have sup­port­ers who’d like to keep things the way they are.

In­com­ing state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Lit­tle Rock, said it means a lot to see his great-great-grand­fa­ther in the U.S. Capi­tol.

“That’s who I was named for,” Tucker said. “It def­i­nitely means a lot to our fam­ily.”

Tucker said he first trav­eled to see the statue when he was age 13, and he is look­ing for­ward to tak­ing his chil­dren to see it as well.

“It’s kind of a fam­ily tra­di­tion for ev­ery­one to have their pic­ture taken [while they] stand next to the statue,” Tucker said.

Rose Law Firm at­tor­ney Steve Joiner also de­fended keep­ing Rose’s statue.

“Judge Rose was very im­por­tant to the his­tory of this state,” Joiner said. “It was prob­a­bly a big de­bate 100 years ago. The ar­gu­ments are just as good for him as it is for any­body else.”

Bland said he wants the state to at least have a dis­cus­sion about it.

“It’s not some­thing you want to turn into a bit­ter fight,” Bland said. “If my great-greatgrand­dad was on dis­play at the U.S. Capi­tol, I wouldn’t want to re­place him ei­ther.”

Even if the Leg­is­la­ture wants new stat­ues, ei­ther the state or a pri­vate company would have to raise the money for them, he said. The two new­est stat­ues in the Stat­u­ary Hall col­lec­tion cost about $300,000 each.

The first step would be choos­ing what new peo­ple to memo­ri­al­ize, Bland said. A group of his­to­ri­ans, law­mak­ers and cit­i­zens should de­cide, he said.

A well-known fig­ure — such as Bates or U.S. Sen. J. Wil­liam Ful­bright, cre­ator of the Ful­bright Scholar Pro­gram — may get sup­port­ers will­ing to raise the money, he said.

“It doesn’t have to be a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure. It could be a business fig­ure, it could be a sports fig­ure, it could be an arts fig­ure,” Bland said.

Writer Maya An­gelou, Wal­Mart founder Sam Walton or mu­si­cian Johnny Cash should also be con­sid­ered, Bland said.

Arkansas His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Tim Nutt, who is head of spe­cial col­lec­tions at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, said an on­line list­serv of Arkansas his­to­ri­ans, pro­fes­sors and his­tory buffs de­bated the mat­ter when Scott filed his leg­is­la­tion.

“Even on that list, a lot of peo­ple didn’t know who James P. Clarke was,” Nutt said. “That tells you some­thing.”

He said that sug­gested re­place­ments in­cluded An­gelou, Bates and U.S. Sen. Hat­tie Car­away, the first woman elected to serve in the U.S. Se­nate.

“There was some feel­ing on the list­serv to maybe get away from the old, dead, white guy and, you know, have a lit­tle bit of di­ver­sity,” he said.

Oth­ers sug­gested were Gov. Win Rock­e­feller, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton or U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers — though Clin­ton and Bumpers can’t be memo­ri­al­ized with a statue un­til after they die.

At this point, the dis­cus­sion is mostly aca­demic, Nutt said.

“I don’t think it’s go­ing to go any­where any­time soon, but it is in­ter­est­ing to think about it,” Nutt said. “I think it will come up again.”

Univer­sity of Arkansas his­tory pro­fes­sor Jean­nie Whayne said she has mixed feel­ings about re­plac­ing Rose and Clarke, but if they are re­placed, it should be with some­one who rep­re­sents the state’s di­ver­sity.

“Their se­lec­tion it­self stands as an ar­ti­fact of his­tory. They were cho­sen at a place and time, and their se­lec­tion sug­gests some­thing in­ter­est­ing about that place and time,” she said. “If we were to re­place the stat­ues, we should be aware that we are mak­ing a state­ment about who we are to­day.”

Arkansas State Univer­sity as­so­ciate his­tory pro­fes­sor Gary Ed­wards said it would be dif­fi­cult to agree on who to make a statue of and to per­suade the state Leg­is­la­ture to ap­pro­pri­ate the money.

“In the cur­rent cli­mate, I think Arkansans will con­tinue to live with Rose and Clarke as their stone rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” Ed­wards said.

Demo­crat-Gazette/SARAH D. WIRE

This U.S. Capi­tol statue de­picts one­time prom­i­nent Arkansan Uriah Mil­ton Rose.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/SARAH D. WIRE

This statue of for­mer Arkansas Gov. James P. Clarke stands near the coat check of­fice in the U.S. Capi­tol vis­i­tors cen­ter. Clarke, gov­er­nor from 1895-1897, also served in the U.S. Se­nate in the early 1900s.

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