Billy Graham May Get a Statue In the U.S. Capitol

The Rev. Billy Graham speaks from his front porch during a 1996 press conference at his home in Montreat. (SCOTT SHARPE / SSHARPE@NEWSOBSERVER.COM)
The Rev. Billy Graham speaks from his front porch during a 1996 press conference at his home in Montreat. (SCOTT SHARPE / SSHARPE@NEWSOBSERVER.COM)

Proposal cites former Gov. Aycock’s supremacist views as reason that change is needed

State legislators want to put a statue of evangelist Billy Graham in the U.S. Capitol building, replacing former Gov. Charles B. Aycock as one of two North Carolinians memorialized there.

Aycock, who served from 1901 to 1905, has come under fire recently for his white supremacist views. In February, East Carolina University stripped his name from a dormitory, and the N.C. Democratic Party took his name off an annual fundraising dinner in 2011.

In Washington, Aycock has represented North Carolina in the National Statuary Hall Collection since 1932. The state’s other contribution there is a statue of Zebulon Vance, who was a Confederate officer, governor and U.S. senator.

Republican-sponsored bills in the state House and Senate call for putting a Graham statue in Aycock’s place, describing him as someone who “continues to inspire the world with his good works.”

“There was a thought that Gov. Aycock may not be one of the best representatives of North Carolina,” said Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican who sponsored the House bill. “As times change, we need to make sure that the people that represent North Carolina do so with our best foot forward.”

Jeter says he filed House Bill 540 following a request from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Jeter says Graham’s legacy of ministry and charitable work reflects well on the state.

“To me, he was the best representative of North Carolina,” he said. “He is by far the least polarizing of all the people who are worthy of consideration.”

A companion bill was filed in the Senate by Sen. Dan Soucek, a Boone Republican who has worked for Samaritan’s Purse, a charity led by Graham’s son Franklin.

Not everyone, however, is eager to see Aycock removed from his Capitol pedestal. Rep. John Bell’s district includes the Aycock Birthplace Historic Site in Wayne County, and he said he’s been “disappointed” to see attacks on the governor’s legacy.

“He did a lot to enhance education,” said Bell, a Goldsboro Republican, pointing to the 1,100 public schools constructed during Aycock’s term. “I would like for him to be remembered for his legacy doing that.”

Bell said he hasn’t yet taken a position on the Graham proposal but stressed that he “loves what Billy Graham stands for.”

Jim Aycock, the great-grandson of Aycock’s brother, said critics have made false attacks on the governor. Some accounts have tied Charles Aycock to race riots and lynchings, which Jim Aycock said is wrong.

“If he were alive today, he would have lot of active libel cases,” Aycock said, adding that the proposed Statuary Hall change is “the latest salvo in a years-long series of attacks.”

Charles Aycock’s role as a white supremacist, however, isn’t in dispute: A 1912 biography said he “believed in the right of the white man to rule as profoundly as he believed in God.”

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SOURCE: The Charlotte Observer
Colin Campbell

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