RALEIGH — A North Carolina proposal to eventually place a statue of the Rev. Billy Graham inside the U.S. Capitol, replacing that of a former politician with ties more than a century ago to the white supremacist movement, won final approval from the state’s lawmakers Thursday.
The North Carolina Senate voted unanimously to pass a measure asking a congressional committee to approve Graham’s likeness as a state contribution to the Capitol. The bill, approved by House counterparts in April, now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.
Now 96, the evangelist Graham grew up in Charlotte and lives in Montreat, North Carolina. Graham has routinely been near the top of the nation’s most-admired lists, counseling U.S. presidents and becoming the leading face of the evangelical movement during the second half of the 20th century.
Congressional guidelines state that a person’s statue can only be installed posthumously. Each state is allowed to contribute two statues, many of which sit within Statuary Hall. Federal law also allows states to request changes.
The plan calls for a statue of Graham to replace that of Charles Aycock, North Carolina’s governor from 1901 to 1905. While praised for decades for a deep commitment to education, Aycock had ties to the white supremacy movement that have recently tarnished his legacy.
The bill also would create a seven-member panel that would pick a sculptor and secure funds for the project. One panelist would represent the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The Senate’s debate on the proposal was brief compared with that in the House, where many Democrats complained about the parliamentary process that brought the legislation to the floor without open discussion at the time about a potential replacement for Aycock’s statue.
Aycock’s statue was given to the U.S. Capitol in 1932, 20 years after his death. The other statue from North Carolina is a likeness of a Civil War-era governor, Zebulon Vance, which was given in 1916. Aycock’s name has been removed from some college dormitories in North Carolina and from an annual state Democratic Party fundraising event.
Later Thursday, the state House voted overwhelmingly for a resolution requesting that the U.S. Postal Service honor Graham with a stamp. Postal officials, in 2011, ended a longstanding policy that stamps couldn’t feature people who are still alive.