BY ALEX GANGITANO
WASHINGTON — When the Rev. Billy Graham died last week at the age of 99, it set in motion a plan to memorialize him in the U.S. Capitol — and to kick out a White supremacist.
North Carolina’s legislature wants to add a statue of the noted evangelical preacher to the Capitol’s collection, replacing that of Charles Aycock, a supremacist and North Carolina’s 50th governor.
While then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill requesting the swap two years ago, it had to wait until Graham’s death, since the National Statuary Hall Collection — which features two statues from every state — bars likenesses of living people.
Rare Capitol honor
Now members of Congress from North Carolina are speaking out in favor of the plan.
“Not only do I agree with that decision, I will do anything I can to work and promote it and I will do everything I can to do it as expeditiously as possible,” Rep. Mark Walker said last week after Graham’s death.
It was Walker who introduced the resolution that authorized Graham to “lie in honor” Wednesday and Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda. He is the fourth person to have that honor.
For him, the switch is less about replacing Aycock, who has stood in the Capitol since 1932, and more about honoring Graham.
Rep. Robert Pittenger said the statue would be a fitting tribute to Graham, even if it clashed with his doctrine of humility.
“As someone who spent his life deflecting praise and giving all glory to Jesus Christ, Dr. Graham probably would have turned down this honor.
Yet given the tremendous impact Dr. Graham had on my life, and the lives of millions of Americans, I can’t think of a more fitting and enduring honor than placing his statue in the United States Capitol,” the congressman said in a statement.
He added, “The statue will publicly and permanently honor a North Carolina native and ‘America’s Pastor,’ a humble servant who faithfully fulfilled God’s calling for over eight decades.”