Religion

6 things to know about placing a statue of Billy Graham in the U.S. Capitol

A Capitol Statue For Billy Graham

Billy Graham biographer Grant Wacker speaks about why it makes sense for a statue of the evangelist to represent his native North Carolina in the U.S. Capitol.
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Billy Graham biographer Grant Wacker speaks about why it makes sense for a statue of the evangelist to represent his native North Carolina in the U.S. Capitol.

It’s official: Both chambers of the North Carolina legislature have now voted to place a statue of Billy Graham inside the U.S. Capitol. After Gov. Pat McCrory signs the measure – the surest of sure things – it will go to a congressional committee for final approval.

In the wake of all this activity, here are six things you should know:

1. No statue of the Charlotte-born evangelist will appear in the Capitol until after he dies. Congressional guidelines say a person’s likeness can only be installed posthumously. Graham, who will turn 97 in November, is frail but still very much alive in his mountaintop home in Montreat.

2. Graham’s eventual statue won’t be the only one representing the Tar Heel State. Each state is permitted to contribute two. Graham’s will share space in or near the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall with one of Buncombe County’s Zebulon Vance, who served as North Carolina’s governor during and after the Civil War. He was a U.S. senator, too, and his caped statue was contributed in 1916.

3. Graham’s statue will replace one of Charles Aycock, a former North Carolina governor (1901-05) from Wayne County who was a champion of public education but also a prominent white supremacist. Aycock’s likeness has been in the Capitol since 1932.

4. Graham, who pastored U.S. presidents and spread the Gospel at crusades around the world, will not be the first religious figure to get a statue in the Capitol. In fact, 12 states are represented by at least one person who made his or her mark in the world of faith. Hawaii donated a statue of Father Damien, the Catholic priest who served the lepers on the island of Molokai. And a statue of Mormon leader Brigham Young is one of two representing Utah.

5. North Carolina is only the latest state to sub out one of its statues. In 2000, Congress approved replacing old figures with new ones. Since then, statues of three former presidents have been added to the collection of 100: Dwight Eisenhower (Kansas), Ronald Reagan (California) and Gerald Ford (Michigan). And Alabama substituted favorite daughter Helen Keller for a now-obscure Confederate soldier.

6. The Graham likeness in the Capitol won’t be the first statue honoring this Southern Baptist preacher who has made the annual “Most Admired” list a record 58 times. In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention unveiled a statue of Graham in Nashville, Tenn. This bronze 9-foot-tall Graham – holding a Bible and standing in front of a 17-foot-tall cross – is on the campus of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Associated Press contributed.

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