Rosa Parks Enshrined in Statuary Hall, but so is Alexander Stephens

Rosa Parks Enshrined in Statuary Hall, but so is Alexander StephensWe all have heard the phrase “they’ll let anybody in there”.  Apparently that’s true about ‘Statuary Hall’ the room located just south of the Capitol Rotunda.

Each state is allowed to contribute two statues, and are also allowed to replace them if the state so decides.

Among the statues lining the semi-rotunda are; Brigham Young, Utah, Will Rogers, Oklahoma, Helen Keller, Alabama, Kamehameha I, Hawaii, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kansas.  As the collection grew, statues had to be placed throughout the hall.  38 statues actually reside in the National Statuary Hall.

There are many great men and a handful of great women honored by the statuary.  The most recent is Rosa Parks, a deserving civil rights icon.  But there are also some “not so great” individuals mistakenly honored in the building, individuals who attempted to overthrow the very government that is honoring them.

Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee are there, and so is Alexander Stephens.

Stephens was second-in-command to Jefferson Davis.  Here is the official description of Alexander Stephens:

“Always in frail health, Stephens was nonetheless a dedicated statesman, an effective leader, and a powerful orator, always seeking moderation and peace. Abraham Lincoln, serving in Congress with Stephens, admired and befriended him; John Quincy Adams wrote a poem in his honor. Although opposed to secession and differing with Jefferson Davis over states rights and nullification, Stephens served as the Confederacy’s vice president.”

Here is the real story of Stephens’ “accomplishments”.

Although his official “bio” states that he was against secession, he changed his mind when simply asked to by the Confederacy.  He was known as a great orator, primarily because of his “Cornerstone Speech”.  It was so named because in it he said that the foundation of the Confederacy was the basic principle  that “not all men are created equal”.

What Stephens was a man who aided and abetted the southern armed rebellion which resulted in more than 600,000 deaths and in several cases divided the young nation permanently.

This story is congruous with one of my many complaints about the hypocrisy of how we honor men and women from our past who were actually villains opposed to equality, universal freedom, and a government that represents all of our nation’s citizens.  The government has convinced us to set aside holidays to celebrate selected individual’s lives although they may be far from deserving.

Just one example.  Earlier in February we celebrated “President’s Day”.  We used to celebrate “Lincoln’s Birthday” on February 12th, and “Washington’s Birthday” on February 22nd, both deserving remembrance.  Some genius in Congress decided we should honor all Presidents on one day.

Some of our Presidents do not deserve to be recognized, and the others should not have to be placed within the same group.

President Andrew Johnson was impeached.  Warren G. Harding’s administration was filled with scandals: Teapot Dome, Justice Department, Jess W. Smith, Veterans’ Bureau, Shipping board, and office of alien property and prohibition bureau. Richard Nixon was forced to resign for conspiring in criminal activity.  Ronald Reagan squirmed his way out of the Iran-Contra conspiracy.  And George W. Bush lied to Congress, invaded two countries, resulting in nearly 7000 deaths, and bankrupting a nation.

The National Statuary Hall is an uncomfortable testament to politics.  When someone such as Stephens, who opposed the foundation of our country, the Constitution, is venerated along with great men and women who have contributed to our country’s reputation and moral growth, they become a symbol of the destructive forces within our nation, and are truly an embarrassment.

Most of the “heroes” I had during my life were proven to be undeserving of my admiration.  In high school it was JFK.  I was a senior when he was assassinated.  He was a courageous and intelligent man, but he was just a man.  Learning he had been unfaithful to his wife greatly lowered my opinion of him.  Of course I had sports heroes.  I actually had coffee with O.J. Simpson for about 30 minutes when I was in my early 20’s.  You know that story.  There were others, including Lance Armstrong.

In the top three of my disappointments was Ronald Reagan.  I was 18, (not old enough to vote, then), when he made a noontime speech where I was employed at a large defense contractor.  He was running for Governor of California.  He impressed me then, and he impressed me when he became Governor, accomplishing almost everything he promised.  He was even decent in his first term as President.  But he, too, failed me.  His disdain for the working class was obvious, and he is the creator of “supply-side” or “trickle-down” economics which began the separation of the wealthy and the working class.

Individuals who deserve honor and respect are few.  Rosa Parks was an excellent choice for the Hall.  I understand she and Stephens are the only two who are depicted sitting.  I don’t believe he’d give up his seat.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.