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Lawmakers say Graham should be in Statuary Hall

Posted April 3, 2015

Gov. Pat McCrory, left, meets with Rev. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham, during a March 1, 2013, visit to Billy Graham's home in Montreat.

— North Carolina lawmakers want to make the Rev. Billy Graham a permanent fixture in Congress.

State House Bill 540, filed by House Majority Leader Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, and Republican Conference Chair Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, would replace the statue of former North Carolina Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock that now stands in National Statuary Hall with a statue of the nationally known evangelist.

"He is someone that I think all of North Carolina can be proud of," Jeter said Friday.

Jeter's bill officially asks Congress to make the switch and creates a committee to raise money for and commission the Graham statue.

"We talked about the need to do something for today's North Carolina hero," Hager said. "We talked about the Grahams being one of the bright spots we have for North Carolina."

Aycock's controversial heritage factored into the move as well.

Although he is known as an early and staunch proponent of education whose administration saw the construction of some 3,000 school houses and laws curbing child labor, he was also a racist and outspoken white supremacist. His speeches helped lead to the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots. In recent years, the state Democratic Party has taken his name off of one of its major fundraising dinners, and just this year, East Carolina University's Board of Trustees unanimously voted to change the name of building named in his honor.

"Gov. Aycock lived in a different time and a different era. I am not, with this bill, trying to pass judgment on his life," Jeter said.

While the onetime governor had important accomplishments, Jeter said, "He also had faults that most of us today would consider unconscionable."

Each state has two statues in Statuary Hall, what is also known as the Old Hall of the House in the U.S. Capitol. North Carolina's other statue is of Zebulon Vance, a governor and U.S. senator.

The resolution proposing the switch notes Graham's national prominence and the fact he has preached around the world and has made Gallup's list of the Top 10 Most Admired Men 55 times.

"Reverend Graham has also counseled world leaders and has participated in many historic occasions and has been called upon as the 'nation's pastor' during times of national crisis," reads the resolution. "He spoke at the National Cathedral service in Washington, D.C., three days after the 9/11 attack in 2001, as the nation and world watched and listened."

Jeter acknowledged that the preacher is not entirely without controversy.

For example, in 2012, he lent his voice to a newspaper ad backing the North Carolina constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that was recently struck down by federal courts.

Jeter said it was U.S. Sen. Richard Burr who originally made the suggestion for a change in statues at an event in December. Jeter said he moved forward with the bill after contacting the Graham family and getting their permission. Jeter's legislative district is home to the Billy Graham Library, which will serve as the nonprofit manager for the effort to raise money for the statue.

Although more than 1,000 bills have been filed at the General Assembly, not all of which will move, he said the Graham measure should move easily.

"This might be one of the easier things we try to get done this year," he said. "We think it's almost a no-brainer."

25 Comments

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  • Eric Hammond Apr 9, 2015
    user avatar

    wow! a religous leader and not a great representative from our past? "Senator Sam" (Sam Ervin) would be the best option. oh, wait the GOP is in control, and the man burned the Nixon administration for Watergate is someone they would rather have people forget!

  • Randy Riddle Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    This is one of the most inappropriate ideas to come out of the legislature - Statuary Hall is not a place to promote a particular ongoing religious ministry.

    There are many Tarheels that are more appropriate - Sir Walter Raleigh, Sam Ervin, Edward R. Murrow, David Brinkley, John Coltrain, Blind Boy Fuller, Thelonius Monk, Doc Watson, Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, John Hope Franklin and others. Oklahoma has a statue of Will Rogers - a statue for Andy Griffith representing North Carolina would be similarly appropriate.

  • Ryan Davis Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    How about we put a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh in it's place since the Capitol of NC is named after him and represents a figure of significant world history.

  • Arch Maker Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    from the law:
    the President is hereby authorized to invite each and all the States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services such as each State may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration; and when so furnished the same shall be placed in the Old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a national statuary hall for the purpose herein indicated.

  • Terry Watts Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Weapons of Mass Distraction...

  • Matthew Danielson Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    I'm surprised the General Assembly would do this... since Rev Billy Graham is a lifelong registered Democrat (who has supported various political candidates/issues regardless of the party affiliation).

  • Teresa Engel Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    This absolutely should not happen. The statuary hall is for NC statesmen, correct? He was not in state governemnt, and therefor should not be given this "honor". Yet another violation of the separation of church and state. And before anyone wants to cry, "there is no such mandate", it should be automatic. There is no state sponsored religion on the federal level, and there should not be any on the state level either.

  • Paul Stroud Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.

    --Billy Graham

  • Collin McLoud Apr 6, 2015
    user avatar

    It's funny how many of those that like to throw the label "bigot" around often display bigotry themselves. Perhaps they need to understand what the term means before using such big words.

  • Paul Maxwell Apr 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Put it in the GA building in Raleigh if you feel that Mr. Graham deserves such an honor. Put it in Charlotte. Put it on the State Flag. Put it anywhere inside the confines of the state of North Carolina you want to. But the United Sates Capitol? Never.

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