The State is working to find a place for old statues; Bates and Cash will replace Rose and Clarke in Statuary Hall at the Capitol


Statues of Little Rock Nine mentor Daisy Bates and musician Johnny Cash destined for Statuary Hall inside the Nation’s Capitol are still on schedule to be completed by the end of the year, but the state must decide what to do with the controversial statues they replace. .

Michael Harry, legislative affairs attorney to the Arkansas secretary of state, told the state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission last week that he contacted the historic Oakland Cemetery Park and Fraternal in Little Rock to accept statues of Uriah Rose, a secessionist; and U.S. Senator and Governor James P. Clarke, who advocated for white supremacy. Both statues have stood in Statuary Hall in Washington, DC for over a century.

“This is a very unique situation in that these statues have been on display in the United States Capitol for 100 years,” Harry told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “We as a state have never seen this happen before.”

Harry said the historic Oakland and Fraternal Cemetery Park Board had expressed enthusiasm in accepting the old statues due to the burial of Rose and Clarke on the grounds. The cemetery is located on Barber Street in downtown Little Rock.

“They’ve talked about using their images and likeness on promotional items and I don’t think that would be a bad option,” he said.

The caveat is that the state would have to pay to have the statues set up on the ground as each needs a concrete base to support the weight. A cost estimate to install the statues at the cemetery was still being worked out Friday.

“They don’t have the funds to do it, so we’ll foot the bill for the concrete foundations,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to the commission to decide where they go.”

Harry said currently the only two options for the commission were to either donate the statues to the cemetery or put them in storage.

“Our intention is to find a permanent home for the statues, and until then we may have to put them in storage,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “There are currently no plans to display them (on public property).”

For the past few years, Arkansas has been replacing the two century-old statues that represent the state in the US Capitol with portraits of Bates and country music icon Cash. Both statues are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We don’t have dates for the unveiling/installation of the statues, those will come once the final statue has been approved by Congress,” Harry said in an email.

Harry said Kevin Kresse of Little Rock, who was the artist chosen for the statue of Cash, was to meet with the Capitol’s architect by phone to discuss his ideas on what material to use as the base for the sculpture.

Kresse “intends to get the plans to the foundry by August (pending Commission approval),” he said.

The Bates model, or scale model, was approved in January by the architect of the Capitol office.

Kresse and sculptor Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho, received commissions in June to create statues of Cash and Bates, respectively. The projects were approved under Arkansas Law 1068 of 2019.

Bates mentored the nine students who entered Little Rock Central High School in 1957. She and her husband, LC Bates, published the Arkansas State Press newspaper, which focused on civil rights and black community issues .

Cash grew up in Dyess and became one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, becoming popular for his country music hits as well as being an advocate for prisoners’ rights and other causes.

Harry said that if the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission agrees to donate the statues to Historic Oakland and Fraternal Cemetery Park, to the best of his knowledge, they would be placed outside their main building on the grounds and they would be maintained by the cemetery.

John Rains, sexton of the cemetery, said Wednesday they were in agreement to remove the statues from the state.

“Because of the historical significance of their interment here and we hope they bring something back to the cemetery,” he said. “We are pretty much a forgotten graveyard.”

Rains said their cemetery has been around for 160 years, but it’s been almost two years since they’ve done one of their $25 tours due to the coronavirus pandemic and lack of interest. He said the money from the visits will go into their fundraising account, which is used to clean and restore headstones on the grounds.

“We’re not going to charge people to see the statues,” Rains said. “I wouldn’t say that we hope these statues bring in money, but to raise awareness of the importance of the cemetery to the state, the city and the general public with respect to the history of their ancestors “These are the people who are helping to build this state and the city of Little Rock and they come from all walks of life. We just want to spread the word.”

Because of the history of those they honour, the statues themselves come with their own set of controversies, Rains said, adding that the monuments will be protected from vandalism and cameras will be placed near them. .

Michael Warrick, a former art professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a sculpture whose works are exhibited in several countries, said he thinks displaying the statues where they have been buried seems like a good idea, but he understands the issues surrounding them.

“Ideas and heroes change over time and that’s relevant,” he said. “For the people who paid the money, made the statues, and the people who were honored, those statues have value to those people. The statues have value as long as you bring that past to the public. It can be enlightening or disturbing depending on how they are interpreted Over time, what is important changes.

Warrick said he believes statues in the present day still matter to the world.

“I think part of rendering our own humanity into statues has upsides and also downsides,” he said. “When you honor someone, you have to realize that things change over time and it may no longer feel honorable.”

“Putting someone like Johnny Cash and Daisy Bates on show when maybe they weren’t perfect, they did things that contributed to society and deserve to be honored,” he said. he declares. “We should honor those who do something for humanity.”


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