North Carolina will send a statue of the late Reverend Billy Graham to represent our state in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The collection of 100 statues honors two notable people from each of the 50 states.
House Bill 540, passed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly in 2015, authorizes that a statue of Reverend Graham be sent to the National Statuary Hall Collection. The language of the legislation reminds us that “there have been many great North Carolinians, but few have impacted the world more than Billy Graham.”
Reverend Graham died Wednesday morning at age 99, after many years of declining health.
The statue of Reverend Graham will replace the current statue of Charles Brantley Aycock, a former Democrat governor and white supremacist leader. 28 legislators, all House Democrats, voted against replacing the statue of the notorious Aycock with a new one of the Reverend Graham.
While the design for the new statue is not yet known, it will not be the first statue bearing the likeness of North Carolina’s favorite son. In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention honored Reverend Graham with a nine foot bronze statue, originally placed in downtown Nashville, and now located at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center near the Graham’s family home in Montreat. It is pictured here.
Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention called Reverend Graham the “most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul.”
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 person in American history.
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. To date, 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.
Reverend Graham’s remains will lie in honor at the capitol rotunda next Wednesday and Thursday, “in recognition of Reverend Graham’s long and distinguished service to the nation.” Only 31 people have been so honored over the course of our nation’s 242 year history, including such distinguished Americans as presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Reverend Graham will be only the fourth private citizen ever to share this extraordinary honor.