By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 24, 2023
It’s been more than seven years since North Carolina lawmakers voted to replace a statue of former governor Charles B. Aycock in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall with one of evangelist Billy Graham, and five years since Graham’s death made him eligible for the memorial. And still, the statue has not been erected. Late last week, U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) introduced a bipartisan resolution to get the project moving.
“Reverend Billy Graham was not only one of North Carolina’s finest sons, but also one of our nation’s great spiritual leaders,” McHenry said in a press release. “Having counseled countless American leaders including thirteen Presidents, he will forever be remembered as America’s Pastor.”
Senator Ted Budd (R-NC), who introduced a companion bill in the Senate, said Graham’s “lifelong commitment to preaching the Gospel, his fight for civil rights, his opposition to communism, and his spiritual guidance provided hope to hundreds of millions.”
“He was the first private citizen from North Carolina to lie in honor in the United States Capitol, and his likeness should stand in the U.S. Capitol forever,” Budd said. “After years of bureaucratic delay, it’s time to get this done.”
McHenry’s resolution, which is co-sponsored by Congressmen Don Davis (NC-01), Greg Murphy (NC-03), David Rouzer (NC-07), Dan Bishop (NC-08), Richard Hudson (NC-09), and Chuck Edwards (NC-11) and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05), would force the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to move forward with the final three steps needed to have the statue installed. The JCL would have to approve or deny the full-sized clay model and pedestal design of the statue within 30 days, approve or deny the completed statue within 30 days and determine its permanent display location within 30 days from statue approval.
Each state is allowed two installments in the national collection. North Carolina added one of former governor and U.S. senator Zebulon Vance in 1916. The statue of Aycock, which was added in 1932, had fallen out of favor as his role in white supremacy campaigns during the late 1890s and early 1900s was documented. In 2015, Republican Dan Soucek, who was serving in the State Senate, introduced a bill calling for Aycock’s statue to be booted and one of Graham installed in its place. State lawmakers approved the change in September 2015 and then Gov. Pat McCrory signed it.
“I first voted to place Reverend Graham’s statue in the US Capitol as a state legislator in 2015, and I’m happy to see that process now come full circle,” said Congressman Bishop. “This resolution will ensure that Congress swiftly completes the remaining steps to honor Reverend Graham, and I look forward to seeing his statue in Statuary Hall.”
After Graham passed away in 2018 at age 99, the effort to carry out the plan was begun in earnest. The North Carolina General Assembly sent a two-foot model of the proposed statue, which depicts Graham as he looked in the 1960s, preaching and holding a Bible in one hand, to the JCL in August 2020, but the committee took more than a year to approve it.
Charlotte sculptor Chas Fagan has been commissioned for the work. Once his life-sized model is approved, it will be cast in bronze.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who co-sponsored the bill with Budd, called Graham “a proud North Carolinian whose service bettered our country and the world.”
“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution so the statue of Reverend Billy Graham can finally stand in Statuary Hall and represent our North Carolina values,” Tillis said.