Billy Graham

NC leaders move forward with another honor for Billy Graham: US Capitol statue

The Rev. Billy Graham speaks during the Mission Metroplex at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002.
The Rev. Billy Graham speaks during the Mission Metroplex at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002. ASSOCIATED PRESS

On the same day that the Rev. Billy Graham was honored with a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Roy Cooper took the next step in having a statue of Graham placed in the Capitol.

North Carolina’s lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 calling for a statue of Graham to replace one of Charles Aycock in the Capitol. Each state has two statues.

Graham, known as “America’s Pastor,” was a Charlotte-born evangelist who reached worldwide audiences and fame with his preaching. He offered spiritual advice to American presidents and other world leaders through a career that spanned more than 60 years. Graham died on Feb. 21 at 99 at his home in Montreat.

His tremendous impact led Congress to celebrate his life by having him lay in honor in the Capitol, making him just the fourth civilian so celebrated. Trump, Pence, most Cabinet members and many members of Congress attended the ceremony Wednesday morning.

Those honored on statues must be deceased. With Graham’s death, Cooper took the next step in the process Wednesday.

“I ask the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the State of North Carolina’s request to replace the statue of Governor Charles B. Aycock in the Statuary Hall Section, and to provide a new statue of the late Reverend William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr.,” Cooper wrote in the letter, which is one of the required steps in the detailed process for replacing a statute.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest also sent a letter to the Architect of the Capitol on Tuesday.

“As Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina and President of the North Carolina Senate, I write to encourage you to approve North Carolina’s request to replace Governor Aycock’s statue with one of Rev. Graham,” Forest wrote.

North Carolina took care of the first step in 2015, when it passed legislation that outlined which statue would be replaced, who would be honored by the new statue and created a commission to select a sculptor and handle the finances of building the new statue and removing the old one.

The second step in the process was handled by Forest on Tuesday and Cooper on Wednesday. It includes submitting a formal request to the Architect of the Capitol and including the relevant state legislation. The guidelines say “a duly authorized State official, typically, the governor” shall submit a written request.

Next, the Joint Committee on Library Action will accept or deny the request.

The 10-step process ends with selecting a permanent location for the new statue, which must meet strict weight, size, material and other requirements. The statues are placed in a number of areas in the Capitol, including National Statuary Hall, the Rotunda, the second-floor corridors of the House and Senate, the Crypt and the Capitol Visitors Center.

Aycock, a Democratic governor from 1901 to 1905, was known as the “education governor. A segregationist and white supremacist, Aycock used poll taxes, literacy tests and the grandfather clause to keep blacks from voting. He believed in an “unending separation of the races.”

North Carolina’s other statue is of Zebulon B. Vance, a Confederate officer, two-time governor and U.S. senator.

In 2003, Congress passed a law allowing for states to replace statues. Several states have taken advantage of the law to add more contemporary figures such as Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and advocate for the blind and deaf Hellen Keller.

Graham will not be the first faith leader to be honored with a statue. Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, represents Utah, and Father Damien, a Catholic priest, represents Hawaii.

Brian Murphy: 202-383-6089, @MurphinDC