Even in death, John Lewis may contribute to the healing at the U.S. Capitol as his former colleagues push for a statue of the legendary congressman to be erected where one of a Confederate leader now stands.
A bipartisan measure is being sponsored in the Georgia General Assembly by state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, to replace the statue of Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy. The Lewis statue requires the approval of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has already voiced support for the measure, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
If approved, the statue would stand in the National Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol, which is devoted to the likenesses of prominent Americans.
“I like the idea very much,” Ralston told the AJC. “I always admired Congressman Lewis and told him so many times. Georgia has a long history, so much more than just the Civil War, and John Lewis has been an important part of that.”
Lewis reportedly used to groan about the Stephens statue. It caused awkward interactions when he had to explain it away to touring students that a man like Stephens, who fought a bloody war to defeat the Union and keep Blacks enslaved, would represent the state of Georgia inside the hallowed federal building. But momentum to make a change has been building for several years and crested when Lewis passed away at 80 from pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020.
“It’s the beginning of a movement that will help us move toward the realization that we’re one people, we’re one nation,” Lewis told the newspaper back in 2015, “and we have to be sensitive to our own history.”