Arkansas Senate endorses Johnny Cash, Daisy Bates statues

DANIEL JANIN/AFP/Getty Images

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ senate endorsed placing statues of civil rights leader Daisy Bates and singer Johnny Cash at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as lawmakers tried to whittle down a growing list of choices to replace existing monuments depicting two 19th century figures they say few people recognize.

In a non-binding vote, the majority-Republican Senate voted Bates as its first choice and Cash as its second choice to replace existing statues representing Arkansas in Washington. Arkansas is currently represented by statues of James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator in the late 1800s and 1900s, and Uriah Rose, a 19th century attorney.

Each state is allotted two statues at the U.S. Capitol. Republican Sen. Bart Hester, who last year called for replacing the two statues, said he was surprised when he saw the statues on a Capitol tour a few years back.

“The thing that struck me immediately was I had no idea who the people from Arkansas were,” Hester said.

Clarke’s great-great grandson, who was the Democratic Party’s nominee for a congressional seat in central Arkansas last year, also called for Clarke’s statue to be replaced and condemned his ancestor’s statement that the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve “white standards.”

Bates was an activist and writer who mentored the nine black children who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Cash was born in Kingsland.

“The sacrifices (Bates) made has helped lead to who we are today here in Arkansas,” said Republican Sen. David Wallace.

The two were chosen after senators heard roughly an hour of presentations from their colleagues about 10 possible replacements for the Clarke and Rose statues. Other ideas pitched included Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, and Adam Brown, a Navy SEAL from Arkansas who was killed in Afghanistan. Lawmakers have floated other ideas, including Walmart founder Sam Walton

Senate President Jim Hendren said Wednesday’s vote will allow lawmakers to move forward with legislation on the replacement statues. A bill by Wallace calling for the Bates and Cash statues has failed before a Senate panel over disagreement on who would be best to represent the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he supports replacing the statues, but has not called for specific replacements. Other states have made recent moves to replace their statues. Missouri’s state Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution supporting replacing one of its statues with one representing former President Harry Truman.

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