The Man in Black lives on -- and not only through his music.
A statue of country music legend Johnny Cash has been chosen, along with prominent civil rights leader Daisy Gatson Bates, to represent the state of Arkansas in the National Statuary Hall of the Capitol Building – taking the place of two contentious Confederate-era figures.
“Almost everyone who was involved in the discussion agreed we needed to update the statues with representatives of our more recent history,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated upon signing the bill to make the changes last week. “But there were many opinions about which historic figures best represented our state. The debate was lively and healthy.”
In the end, Cash and Bates were declared the winners to replace the statues of Uriah Rose and James Paul Clarke, which have reigned in the Capitol for over a century. Rose served as head of the American Bar Association and stood up against secession during the Civil War, but the attorney maintained his adherence to the Confederate state of Arkansas. Meanwhile, Clarke was the 18th governor of the state and later served as Senate representative but attracted opposition last year with claims he advocated white supremacy.
Cash, who died in 2003 at 71 years old, spent decades in the limelight as one of country music’s greatest icons with hits such as “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” Moreover, Bates is celebrated as a renowned activist and writer who guided nine children that went on to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
“This is an extraordinary moment recognizing the contributions of two incredible Arkansans,” Hutchinson added. “We want our memories, through our statues, to tell the story of Arkansas. I believe our story is represented well by these two historic figures.”
Each state is entitled to two statues of historical figures to be displayed in the Capitol Building.