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Statue of Daisy Gatson Bates to be placed at U.S. Capitol on Wednesday

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Statue of Daisy Gatson Bates to be placed at U.S. Capitol on Wednesday


Local viewing ceremony at Little Rock’s Second Baptist Church

By Arkansas Black Vitality Staff – Daisy Gatson Bates will soon get her due recognition at the U.S. Capitol, next to Rosa Parks.

On Wednesday, May 8, Bates will become the 13th woman represented in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2024, at 3:00 pm EST. Bates, best known as the mentor to the Little Rock Nine, was also co-publisher of the Black-owned Arkansas State Press, author of “The Long Shadow of Little Rock,” president of the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP, and the only woman to formally address the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and Shane Broadway, Chairman of the National Statuary Hall Steering Committee for Arkansas, made this announcement today following confirmation by U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s office.

Artist Benjamin Victor was commissioned by the National Statuary Hall Steering Committee and the Arkansas Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission to create the 7-foot 6-inch bronze sculpture following the approval of Act 1068 of 2019.  This statue and a statue of musician Johnny Cash have replaced Arkansas’s two current statues in the U.S. Capitol for over a century. Cash’s unveiling by Arkansas artist Kevin Kresse will take place later.

In 1864, Congress passed a law inviting each state to submit up to two bronze or marble statues to be placed in what is known as the National Statuary Hall. As the number of states grew, the statues were housed in additional areas of the U.S. Capitol. In 1917, a marble statue of the late Uriah M. Rose, a founder of the Rose Law Firm and the American Bar Association, and in 1921, a marble statue of the late U.S. Senator and Governor James P. Clarke was placed in National Statuary Hall, both approved by the Arkansas General Assembly.

The public is invited to watch the dedication ceremony with a live viewing party, which will begin at 1:00 pm Central Standard Time at Second Baptist Church, located at 1709 John Barrow Road. This local event, sponsored by the NAACP LIttle Rock chapter, will feature highlights of Mrs. Bates’ legacy and efforts by local dignitaries to uphold her vision for equality and justice. The unveiling will then be viewed live immediately following the program. These events are free and open to all. The ceremony will also be broadcast live on C-SPAN and the Speaker of the House website.

“This is historic and we are proud to be associated with Ms. Bates legacy,” said Larry Hicks, spokesman for the NAACP Little Rock chapter.

Victor, who hosted a residency to work on the statue last year at the Windgate Center of Art and Design at UA Little Rock, was commissioned by the National Statuary Hall Steering Committee and the Arkansas Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission to create a 7-foot-6-inch bronze sculpture of Ms. Gates nearly two years ago.

“It’s been such an honor. When I read about [Bates’s] life and legacy and accomplishments, I know it will take the best of me in order to do justice to her spirit and legacy. I can’t imagine any person more worthy than Daisy Bates of being immortalized in Statuary Hall,” said Victor.

Victor is the only living artist to have three works in National Statuary Hall and is further recognized as the youngest artist to have a sculpture installed, with his first work installed at the age of twenty-six.

During the 2019 legislative session, SB 75 by Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, was approved by a vote of 33-0 with no debate. Wallace first introduced his legislation to replace two U.S. capitol statues with Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash in late January, but the proposal stalled for several weeks as other lawmakers offered competing bills to replace the statues of deceased Arkansans U.M. Rose and James P. Clarke at the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.

For example, Walmart’s Sam Walton, former Sen. Dale Bumpers and other deceased civic, military and business leaders were mentioned as potential replacement statues. After fierce debate, the Senate final settled on Bates and Cash as their top choices in a non-binding vote and both the House and Senate chamber approved legislation that was approved by signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on April 11, 2019, during a bill signing ceremony at the Governor’s Conference Room at the State Capitol.

“This is occasional that deserves a celebration about Arkansas history, about how we represent ourselves to the nation, so this deserves a moment of focus and a public signed of these bills,” said Hutchinson.

Although the Arkansas lawmakers settled on Bates and Cash for the momentous honor, the legislation did not supply any funding to pay for the commissioning work on the statutes. Since then, more than $1 million has been raised to replace Arkansas’s Confederate-era statues now in the National Statuary Hall. 

The entire National Statuary Hall collection consists of 100 bronze or marble statues contributed by 50 states, two statues each. The first statue was placed in 1870. By 1971, all 50 states had contributed at least one statue, and by 1990, all but five states had contributed two statues.

Bates will be placed next to a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and next to another civil rights icon, Rosa Parks. The committee has worked for about a year with the families and officials with the Hall to place and construct the statues. Cash will be the first musician in the Hall. His statue will be placed in the Hall Visitor Center.

Bates was a civil rights activist who worked to end segregation in Little Rock. The state honors her with “Daisy Gatson Bates Day” on the third Monday in February. Cash, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, is mostly remembered for his unique country music style that embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk and gospel. He was born in Kingsland in Cleveland County in Northeast Arkansas and grew up in Dyess in Mississippi County.

The U.S. Congress authorized the creation of the Hall in 1864 and each state is allowed two statues. Up to 5 million people worldwide visit the Hall each year. A push began early in the 2019 session to statues of deceased Arkansans U.M. Rose and James P. Clarke at the Hall.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Rose was a nationally prominent attorney who practiced in Little Rock for more than 40 years at the Rose Law Firm. He was also a founder and president of both the Arkansas Bar Association and the American Bar Association and was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as an ambassador for the U.S. to the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907.

Today, the U.M. Rose School is a historic school building on the campus of Philander Smith College in downtown Little Rock, which ironically is located at 900 Daisy L. Gaston Bates Drive. On the other hand, Clarke was the 18th governor of Arkansas and a former U.S. Senator. However, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas and other historical references, he was a defender of white supremacy as a key doctrine of the state Democratic party.

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