Daisy Gatson Bates will be one of the first African Americans to have a statue in National Statuary Hall when Arkansas replaces its current statues of former political figures.
Donors have contributed $510,000 of the $1 million needed to replace Arkansas’s statues in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., with statues of civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates and musician Johnny Cash, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at a news conference today.
The campaign is now entering the public phase and the Foundation for Arkansas Heritage and History has launched a website for those who would like to donate.
“We want Arkansans to participate, whether they can give $5 or $50,” Hutchinson said. “In the past 100 years, Arkansas has changed, but our visitors in Washington do not see the changes. This is an opportunity for Arkansans to help tell our story to the rest of the world.”
The state’s first sculpture in Statuary Hall, a statue of attorney Uriah Milton Rose, was installed in 1917. The statue of James Paul Clark, the eighteenth governor of Arkansas and a United States senator, was installed in 1921. Both had ties to some of the state’s racist history, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Rose was not in favor of secession by Arkansas because he did not believe the Southern states could win the Civil War. However, after it became clear secession was inevitable, he sided with his fellow Arkansans. Clark was a Democrat and defender of white supremacy as a key part of his party’s doctrine.
The official move to replace those statues began during the 92nd General Assembly when Senator Dave Wallace and Representative Jeff Wardlaw sponsored House Bill 1969, which authorized the change. Governor Hutchinson signed the bill on April 11, 2019.
The General Assembly accepted nominations for statues and selected Daisy Bates, a civil rights activist who mentored the Little Rock Nine in 1957, and Johnny Cash, a world-renowned singer and songwriter, who sold 90 million records during his career.
With the selection of Daisy Bates, Arkansas is one of the first states to choose an African American to represent it in Statuary Hall. Johnny Cash will be the first musician with a statue there.
“These two historic figures represent equally important aspects of the lives of Arkansas,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “Daisy Bates was a woman of principle and courage who changed Arkansas for the better. Johnny Cash elevated everyday, hardworking people by telling their stories in his songs.”
Gov. Hutchinson said his goal is to have the two statues in place in Washington by the time he leaves office. The governor is term limited and will leave office in early 2023. The original statutes will be returned to Arkansas and installed in new places.