ATLANTA – A resolution calling for placing a statue of the late Congressman John Lewis inside the U.S. Capitol cleared a committee in the Georgia House of Representatives Wednesday.
The resolution would create an eight-member committee to decide where in Georgia to relocate a statue of Confederate politician Alexander Stephens that the Lewis statue would replace.
Stephens, who served as vice president of the Confederacy, is one of two Georgians whose statues are located inside the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, which features two statues from each state.
Statues of Confederate political and military leaders have been demolished or relocated across the country during the last couple of years because of their connections with racism and slavery.
Lewis, a Democrat from Atlanta, died last summer at the age of 80. He represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for more than 30 years after serving as a civil rights activist. He was beaten severely by Alabama state police in 1965 while on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., an incident that came to be known as Bloody Sunday and was instrumental in congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.
On Wednesday, some members of the House committee with jurisdiction over state properties questioned the process that led to the resolution.
Rep. Jodi Lott, R-Evans, said she was surprised that Lewis was selected for the honor before the committee proposed in the resolution has been formed.
“Hank Aaron’s name has come up for being an incredible unifier,” she said, referring to the Atlanta Braves baseball great who died last month. “Politicians don’t tend to be considered as unifiers.”
Another committee member suggested former Congressman and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young should have been considered.
Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, the resolution’s sponsor, said he at first thought of suggesting a statue honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. However, there is already a statue of King at the U.S. Capitol, he said.
“I think Rep. Lewis would be a good example,” Williams said.
Besides determining a suitable site to relocate the Stephens statue, the proposed committee would select a sculptor for the Lewis statue.
The committee also would be responsible for overseeing the costs of designing and creating the statue, transporting it to the U.S. Capitol, removing and relocating the Stephens statue and the ceremony unveiling the new statue. All of the money would be raised privately.
The committee will be given until Dec. 1, 2022, to carry out its assigned tasks.
The resolution, which now moves to the House Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote, enjoys strong bipartisan support. Its cosponsors include House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge; House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington; House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon; and Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the House’s longest serving member.