Crawford touts Cash for statue at Capitol
Written by: Michael R. Wickline
Published by: Arkansas Democrat Gazette
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford has suggested to both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Sen. David Wallace on different occasions over the past year that someone of late musician Johnny Cash’s stature would be an excellent choice to honor with a statue in the U.S. Capitol.
But Hutchinson and Jonah Shumate, Crawford’s chief of staff, both said the governor hasn’t agreed to ask the Legislature to replace one of Arkansas’ two statues in the U.S. Capitol with one of Cash.
On Wednesday, Crawford tweeted that he’s glad that state Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, started drafting legislation to honor different Arkansans with statues in the U.S. Capitol. Each state is allowed to place two statues in the Capitol. Hester noted that Arkansas’ existing statues were placed about 100 years ago. They are of the late attorney Uriah M. Rose and the late U.S. Sen. and Gov. James P. Clarke.
“I’ve been working with @SenDave Wallace & @Asa Hutchinson this last year to bring Johnny Cash to the halls of Congress. It would make all Arkansans proud — let’s make it happen!” according to the tweet from Crawford, a Republican from Jonesboro.
“Representative Crawford understands and respects the powers and rights of the states and looks forward to offering his input and support of Mr. Cash as the legislature looks to take this up in the next legislative session in Little Rock,” Shumate said.
“We have had a discussion about it and I’ve not committed to any particular person as to who we should honor,” Hutchinson said.
“I do support the discussion as to who should properly represent Arkansas in the statuary halls,” he said Thursday. “Obviously, Johnny Cash ought to be in the discussion, but there are others who should be in the discussion as well.
“Hopefully, on such a historic marker … there is a consensus that can develop and there will be some that want to maintain the status quo on it. But I think there is a strong interest in having some changes made in Statuary Hall in who represents us.”
In 1864, Congress passed a law inviting each state to submit up to two bronze or marble statues to be placed in what is now known as Statuary Hall. As the number of states grew, the statues spread to other areas in the U.S. Capitol.
In 1917, the Arkansas Legislature approved a marble statue of Rose, who helped found the Rose Law Firm and the American Bar Association. In 1921, the Arkansas Legislature approved a marble statue of Clarke, who was Arkansas’ governor from 1895-97 and a U.S. senator from 1903-16. Clarke is the great-great-grandfather of state Rep. Clarke Tucker, a Democrat from Little Rock who is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock in the Nov. 6 general election.
Wallace, a Republican from Leachville, said Thursday he received a call from Crawford about 15 months ago suggesting the state replace the existing statutes with those of Cash and Little Rock Nine mentor Daisy Gatson Bates.
Wallace said Bates would be “a great choice” or one of the Little Rock Nine, referring to the black students who desegregated Central High School in 1957.
“I’m biased, but Johnny Cash would be a great choice,” he said. “We have had those statues for a hundred years and need something our younger generation could identify with.”
Shumate said Friday that Crawford “agrees on Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash. But to reiterate, it is the decision of the state Legislature who ultimately is or is not selected.”
When Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs takes Arkansans on a tour of the U.S. Capitol, he asks them who they would like to see represented by Arkansas’ two statues. The most popular answers are Cash and Walmart founder Sam Walton, said Westerman spokesman Ryan Saylor.
Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers “believes this is for the state to decide so he hasn’t weighed in on it,” Boozman spokesman Patrick Creamer said Thursday.
Caroline Tabler, a spokesman for Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, said Thursday, “I haven’t had a chance to ask him about this, but we’ll let you know if/when we do.”
Hester said Wednesday his legislation would authorize a statue of one of the Little Rock Nine and of Adam Brown of Hot Springs, a U.S. Navy SEAL who died in combat in Afghanistan in 2010.
Bills on replacing the statues were introduced in 2001, 2013 and 2017, but they didn’t go anywhere.