Agnew's head, shoulders with predecessors at last

April 01, 1992|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Nearly two decades after he left the capital in disgrace, Spiro T. Agnew is finally getting some respect.

The former vice president will have his marble likeness sculpted in the coming months and placed among his predecessors -- and successors -- in the Capitol.

Mr. Agnew, bypassed over the years for the official bust, was contacted early last month by George M. White, the architect of the Capitol who will oversee the project, which is expected to take six months and cost between $35,000 and $50,000, said William F. Raines Jr., a spokesman for the architect.

"Mr. Agnew had already indicated to the [Senate] Rules Committee that he was interested in doing this," said Mr. Raines, referring to the committee that oversees Capitol renovations.

A former Maryland governor, Mr. Agnew resigned the vice presidency in 1973 after pleading no contest to federal tax evasion charges. He is the only former vice president without a marble bust on the Senate side of the Capitol, where the vice president serves as president of the Senate.

Even the most recent former vice president -- George Bush -- has his sculpted likeness set in a niche there.

Either the committee or the architect's office is supposed to contact the vice president or his family after he leaves office for the commission of a bust, under an 1898 Senate resolution. But for two decades nothing was done about the Agnew bust, leading to speculation that the only vice president ever to resign under legal fire had been snubbed.

"I don't know of any reason why he would be snubbed," Mr. Raines said. "He was a former vice president."

A Republican Rules Committee aide, Wayne Schley, said he believed that it was the vice president or his family that was supposed to initiate the project. "There certainly was no evidence of conscious snubbing," Mr. Schley said. who suspected it was another reason -- "overlooked."

Mr. Schley said that after news reports last year about the marble absence of Mr. Agnew, he spoke with his boss, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the senior Republican on the Rules Committee.

Mr. Stevens has been grateful to Mr. Agnew since 1973, when zTC the vice president broke a tie vote in the Senate for the construction of the Alaskan pipeline, Mr. Schley said.

In February, Mr. Stevens wrote the former vice president, who now lives in California, and asked whether he would like to be memorialized in the Capitol. Mr. Agnew wrote back and said he would be "honored," Mr. Schley said.

Mr. Agnew said in a letter to The Sun last summer that there seemed to be "little interest" in placing his bust in the Capitol, although he would be willing to cooperate.

"I am not unfamiliar with such treatment by those in power," Mr. Agnew said, recalling that his official portrait was removed from the Maryland State House after his resignation.

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