Roll Call takes a look at the planned replacement of the statues representing Arkansas at the U.S. Capitol, after a bill sponsored by Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville) was signed into law last week.
The current statues depict lawyer Uriah Rose and former senator and governor James P. Clarke; they will be replaced by statues honoring civil rights icon Daisy Bates and country music legend Johnny Cash.
The roundup from Roll Call:
Both Rose and Clarke were political figures during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Though he opposed secession, Rose was loyal to Arkansas, a Confederate state during the war. Clarke, whose descendants have grappled with his racist views, was a United States senator and governor of the state. …
Cutting ties with Confederate art wasn’t the main goal of Arkansas state Sen. David Wallace, the lead sponsor of the bill. Instead, he cited name recognition.
“The statues there in the hall now are of two fine gentlemen, but they are of a different era,” Wallace said. “I remember when I came back from Vietnam and I went to the hall, then I saw all these great men, and then I went in front of the Arkansas statues and I didn’t know who they were. That’s nothing against them, but their time has faded.”
Wallace’s bill initially hit a snag when some Republicans expressed a preference for Sam Walton, and complained about the Man in Black’s vibe. Rep. Doug House tutted, “Mr. Cash is a great musician … but the drugs, the alcohol, the women, that kind of thing … no, I can’t hold him up to my children as a model.” A procedural maneuver was initially used to block the measure in the House, but the measure eventually passed easily.
Roll Call tracked down U.S. Rep. French Hill, the Man in the Black Tuxedo, who offered his approval:
Arkansas icons Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash are worthy additions to the U.S. Capitol statue collection. I applaud the decision by Gov. Hutchinson and the General Assembly to recognize their historic contributions and preserve their inspiring legacies for future generations.
Unasked follow-up questions: Does French Hill listen to music? Does he dance?
It remains unclear when statue swap will take place; Wallace told Roll Call it’s likely a few years away. Wallace’s bill did not allocate funding, and the state will need to fundraise from private donors to construct the new statues.
p.s. Here’s former state representative Clarke Tucker‘s column for the Arkansas Times in October, grappling with the legacy of James P. Clarke, his great-great grandfather. In 1894, while running for governor, Clarke reportedly said, “The people of the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve the white standards of civilization.” Tucker argued that it was time to replace the statue and advocated for the choice of Daisy Bates, stating, “the time has come to move in a new direction.”