By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
August 5, 2020
Visitors to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall next year will see a new installment honoring a man whose dedication to the Lord helped turned millions of hearts toward heaven. A statue of evangelist Billy Graham, who died in 2018 at age 99, will replace that of former governor Charles B. Aycock (1859-1912).
“Dr. Billy Graham represents the best of North Carolina, the best of the world,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which has long supported the switch. “I can think of no one, absolutely no one, from our state who had a greater impact for good, not simply on our nation but globally, than Billy Graham.”
The idea to honor Graham with a statue was first proposed more than five years ago. Each state is allowed two installments in the national collection, and Aycock’s, which had been there since 1932, had fallen out of favor as his role in white supremacy campaigns during the late 1890s and early 1900s was documented. In fact, Aycock participated in the Wilmington massacre of 1898, during which a mob of over 2,000 killed an estimated 60 African Americans. Over the last decade, Aycock’s name has been removed from a number of campus halls at North Carolina universities.
Former Republican State Sen. Dan Soucek introduced a bill calling for Aycock’s statue to be removed from Statuary Hall and one of Graham installed in its place. State lawmakers approved the change in September 2015 and then Gov. Pat McCrory signed it. But federal rules require that those honored with a statue in the Capitol Rotunda must be deceased. So it wasn’t until after Graham’s passing in 2018 that a committee was named to carry out the task.
While Graham’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, said his father would never have pushed for such recognition, the famous evangelist would have agreed that there is no place for racism in our nation, much less in its capitol.
“In Christ the middle wall of partition has been broken down. There is no Jew, no Gentile — no black, white, yellow, or red. We could be one great brotherhood in Jesus Christ,” Billy Graham wrote in his book World Aflame. “However, until we come to recognize Him as the Prince of Peace and receive his love in our hearts, the racial tensions will increase, racial demands will become more militant, and a great deal of blood will be shed. The race problem could become another flame out of control.”
The Rev. Creech said he finds it providential that at a time when race is a central issue again in America, when statues of those associated with slavery and racism are being pulled down, soon there will be going up a statue of a man who represented by his life and message the true solution for the problem.
“When our identities merge in Christ, our immutable differences are seen for the glory that they are. Our differences are strengths whereby we compliment each other and lift all of humanity together,” Creech said.
He said Graham, who provided spiritual counsel to presidents since the days of Harry Truman, “repeatedly reminded us that liberty and its maintenance are profound spiritual matters.”
“He rightly preached that liberty is deeply rooted in divine sonship, and that the image of God in man is defaced whenever our relationship to God is forgotten and we see ourselves only as children of this earth,” Creech said.
N.C. Speaker of the House Tim Moore said Graham’s spiritual guidance lives on in the hearts of North Carolinians. “Placing a monument of Rev. Graham in the U.S. Capitol will serve as a solemn memorial to his incredible impact on the faith of millions in our state and around the world,” Moore said.
Last week, the North Carolina legislative committee approved a two-foot model of the statue, which depicts Graham as he looked in the 1960s, preaching and holding a Bible in one hand. Chas Fagan, the sculptor commissioned for the work, will begin creating a life-sized model that will be presented to a congressional committee for approval before being cast in bronze.