House Bill 540, passed overwhelmingly by the House in April, recommends that a statue of Reverend Graham be sent to National Statuary Hall. The legislation reminds us that “there have been many great North Carolinians, but few have impacted the world more than Billy Graham.”
Reverend Graham has been named by Gallup in its annual poll as one of the ten most admired men in the world — a record 58 times — and he has received more individual awards and accolades than perhaps any other living person.
Should House Bill 540 become law, a statue of Reverend Graham will replace the current statue of Charles Brantley Aycock, a notorious white supremacist leader and former Democrat governor. 28 legislators, all Democrats, voted against House Bill 540.
Duke University removed Aycock’s name from its campus last year.
The National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol Building is comprised of statues donated by each state; the subject of the statue must be a deceased person who was a citizen of the United States and is illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service. Statues may represent only one individual.
The entire collection in the Capitol Building now consists of 100 statues contributed by 50 states, with each state contributing two statues. The second of North Carolina’s two statues is of Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), a Confederate military officer in the Civil War and also a former Democrat governor. (Historical note: Vance was succeeded by William Woods Holden, North Carolina’s first Republican governor. The Republican Party was created to end slavery, and Holden went to great lengths while in office to combat the evils of the Ku Klux Klan. This enraged members of the Democrat Party, who removed Holden from office in retaliation after they regained control of the state legislature. So far, Holden is the only North Carolina governor to have been impeached.)
The process for putting a statue or a replacement in the collection is a formal one and requires state legislatures to pass a resolution and then establishing a seven-member Statuary Hall Selection Committee for this purpose. The committee must identify a method of obtaining the necessary funds needed to pay for:
- The sculptor for designing and carving or casting the statue;
- The design and fabrication of the pedestal;
- The transportation of the statue and pedestal to the United States Capitol;
- The removal and transportation of the replaced statue;
- The temporary placement of the new statue in the Rotunda of the Capitol for the unveiling ceremony;
- The State must arrange the program for an unveiling ceremony with the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who will ensure that congressional participation is bipartisan and bicameral.
House Bill 540 must now be approved by the Senate and signed by Governor Pat McCrory (North Carolina’s eighth Republican governor) before it becomes law.