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Updating History: the State of Statue Swaps

Michigan Becomes Fourth State to Make Change With Gerald Ford Unveiled in Rotunda Tuesday

Tom Williams/Roll Call
The statue of President Gerald Ford is unveiled Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda at a ceremony with (from left) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker John Boehner, Ford's daughter Susan Ford Bales, his son Steven Ford and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

At a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda today, President Gerald Ford will become the sixth former president to be portrayed as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

The addition of the Michigan statesmanís likeness marks another notable occasion: His will be the fourth new statue added to the Capitol since legislation passed in 2000 allowing states to replace one or both of their two sculptures. 

Kansas was the first state to do so, adding President Dwight Eisenhower in 2003. California and Alabama followed in 2009, adding President Ronald Reagan and Helen Keller, respectively.

Several more states are in the process of adding new statues of their own to the collection. But it will be a while before the next statue moves in.

The process is not as simple as proclaiming the intent to switch. It is ripe with politics, bureaucratic red tape and fundraising ó stumbling blocks that have resulted in at least two planned swaps dragging on for almost a decade.

In 2002, Missouriís Legislature approved and then-Gov. Bob Holden (D) signed a resolution to add President Harry Truman to the collection. But Holden submitted the request to the Architect of the Capitol improperly and it languished until 2009.

That year, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) inquired about the status of the project and realized what had happened, spurring now-Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to resubmit the request. 

Things are now back on track for the Show-Me State, but the switch could be years away.

Kansasí second attempt to switch a statue hasnít gone as smoothly as the first. Though the request to add famed aviator Amelia Earhart to the collection was approved more than a decade ago at the same time as the Eisenhower request, nobody took responsibility for the project, said Lynette Long, president of womenís group Equal Visibility Everywhere.

The request was further delayed when then-Gov. Mark Parkinson (D) included Longís group in the agreement with the Architect of the Capitol.

ďThey said as an advocacy group, we couldnít be in the contract. Itís supposed to be between the state and the Architect of the Capitol, not the state and me and the Architect,Ē Long said.

So the request was sent back for revision and is waiting for the signature of Gov. Sam Brownback (R). Long canít start raising money in earnest or requesting bids to sculpt the statue until Brownback signs the measure.

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