Jerry Mitchell, The Clarion-Ledger
Capitol Hill could welcome the King of the Blues if Mississippi lawmakers and the governor back a resolution.
Each state selects two statues to represent the state in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.
In 1931, Mississippi donated its statues of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and J.Z. George, chief architect of the state’s notorious 1890 Constitution, which was designed to disenfranchise African Americans through poll taxes and other means..
A number of states have replaced statues, including Alabama, which chose Helen Keller as a replacement statue, and California, which chose Ronald Reagan.
Under the resolution introduced at the state Legislature, Mississippi’s most beloved bluesman, B.B. King, would take George’s place.
Bryant has expressed his support for a discussion of replacing George, saying, “B.B. King and Elvis would both be good possibilities for a replacement.”
If King were chosen, he would be the first African American chosen by a state to represent it. Congress added a statue of Rosa Parks in 2013.
Suggested replacements have included William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer among many others.
State Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, introduced the resolution Monday to have King as a replacement statue.
“We’re the home of the blues and the Grammy Museum,” he said. “That seems to be a good foot to put forward.”
Baker received the suggestion from Flowood lawyer Michael Wolf, who visited the U.S. Capitol with his family and was surprised to see George’s statue. “I thought, ‘This isn’t the Mississippi I know,’” he said.
State Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona, praised George as “a small-town attorney, a staunch defender of the common man, a United States senator, a proponent of Mississippi’s agriculture and the chief justice of Mississippi’s Supreme Court.”
She criticized those “who refuse to recognize the efforts of the 19th-century pioneers who settled this state and carved a civilization from the wilderness. I refuse to take part in revisionist history and ask the members of the Mississippi Senate to do the same.”
Baker said he welcomes the debate over who should represent Mississippi. “I say, ‘Let’s have a discussion.’”