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.
Graham will lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda. But his likeness could endure in the building for much longer.
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 white supremacist and North Carolina’s 50th governor.
Then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill requesting the swap two years ago, but 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.
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, R-N.C., 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 will be the fourth private citizen to have that honor.
For Walker, the switch is less about replacing Aycock, who has stood in the Capitol since 1932, and more about honoring Graham. “[Graham’s] certainly more of the positive,” Walker said. “It wouldn’t matter who’s there, no matter what North Carolinian, no matter what they had accomplished, I think the vast [majority of] North Carolinians would think Billy Graham would have to be in there.”