The campaign to replace Arkansas’ current statues at the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall has officially reached its public fundraising phase.
During a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that through private donations, the effort to replace the existing statues of Uriah Rose, a 19th century attorney and former Arkansas Senator and Governor James P. Clark, with statues of Civil Rights icon Daisy Bates, and hall of fame musician Johnny Cash, had reached $510,000. An amount, Hutchinson said, is slightly more than halfway to the one million dollars they expect it to cost.
"That will cover selecting the best sculptors, completing the work, having approval from the architect of the Capitol and having the sculptures shipped and placed in the Capitol,” Hutchinson said.
In addition to private donations, Hutchinson said he wanted to give all Arkansans an opportunity to provide funding for the new statues.
"We want them, when they go to our nation’s Capitol, and they see the representation of our modern history there in our nation’s Capitol to say 'I donated to that. I participated in this. We helped makes this happen.' We want all Arkansans to have that benefit, whether it is $5 or $50, we want you to be a part of this historic initiative," Hutchinson said.
During the 2019 Arkansas legislative session, lawmakers passed legislation, signed by Hutchinson to replace the statues. Hutchinson said his goal is to have the statues replaced by the end of his term as governor, which lasts until early 2023.
Shane Broadway, the chair of Arkansas’ National Statuary Steering Committee, called this effort to update Arkansas’ statues, a historic event and revealed where the statues of Cash and Bates will be located.
"Johnny Cash, his statue will be in the Capitol visitor’s center. Daisy Bates, after consulting with the family, Daisy Bates will be across from Rosa Parks and next to Jefferson Davis, a fitting place for a civil rights icon to be in the U.S. Capitol," Broadway said.
Broadway said the location of Cash’s statue at the visitor’s center means that millions will walk by it as they enter the Capitol.
He also said Bates’ placement next to Jefferson Davis, the Former President of the Confederacy, was a way to "show it" to Davis, but said Bates being across from fellow Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks is "even more exciting."
Though not at the conference in-person, members of the Cash family wrote a statement that Broadway read aloud, saying "our father and brother was fiercely proud of his upbringing in the New Deal Era colony of Dyess and he would be deeply moved and honored to know a sculpture of him will forever stand as an Arkansas native son in that great hall."
Speaking during the news conference, Charles King, President of the Daisy Bates House Museum, said the selection of Bates to represent Arkansas at the Capitol "will stand as a testament to the belief that access to education is the key to success."
"It is what the American dream is built upon. Mrs. Bates, along with the Little Rock Nine and their families boldly and with strong spiritual faith, were willing to sacrifice it all. Yes, including potentially their lives, so that others could live out the dream that this great nation so proudly offers," King said.
Those interested in donating to the campaign can visit Arkansas Heritage Foundation’s website.