Congress

Clay wants Congressional Black Caucus to snub George H.W. Bush statue

Rep. William Lacy Clay and his father oppose the new sculpture on historically black Hampton University’s campus

From left, Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Cedric Richmond, D-La., Alma Adams, D-N.C., William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and John Conyers, D-Mich., speak in front of the painting by Missouri high school student David Pulphus after it was rehung, January 10, 2017. The painting was removed from the Congressional Art Competition display in Cannon tunnel by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. and his father, a former congressman, are asking the Congressional Black Caucus to follow their lead and oppose a sculpture of George H.W. Bush on the campus of historically black Hampton University.

Last weekend, the Hampton, Virginia university unveiled its new Legacy Park, which commemorates the 41st president along with a host of black leaders including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama.

The Democrat from St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that Bush’s record on civil rights is severely lacking compared to others honored at the park. Clay cited Bush’s appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and his opposition to some civil rights laws.

The statue of Bush should be removed, Clay said, vowing to argue in a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus that its members adopt a similar stance.

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“When you think about the legacy of President George H. W. Bush, it is not one that you can hold up as someone who believed in equal justice for all,” he said.

“It is a legacy that really damaged the African-American community, and what I mean by that is his appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, to replace a giant like Thurgood Marshall,” he said. “I think that was so insulting to the African-American and to the country as a whole, because [Thomas] couldn’t hold a candle to Thurgood Marshall, as far as civil liberties, freedom, equal rights, equal justice. He’s contrary to all that.”

Clay’s father, William Lacy Clay Sr., who served in the House from 1969 to 2001 and helped found the CBC, issued a written rebuke to Hampton for including Bush in its park. In the letter, he asked his former CBC colleagues to “lead the way in exposing the hypocrisy of celebrating George H.W. Bush as a true representative of ‘all the people.’”

“For three decades in public service, he refused to come face-to-face with his paradoxical conflict of duplicity in matters of race,” the elder Clay said.

“He steadfastly and vigorously opposed any specific proposal to ameliorate the inequitable, bigoted treatment of black citizens,” including diluting civil rights bills in Congress, Clay Sr. said.

Hampton President Dr. William R. Harvey has said previously that Bush was included in the park’s plans, in part, because he was a staunch advocate of historically black colleges and universities.

“President Bush was not only a good friend of mine, but he was an extraordinary person who believed it was crucial that African Americans have access to education,” Harvey said. “I think that’s something that we must acknowledge.”

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