Glick going home to Kansas

Capitol statue collection to see unknowns go, familiar faces enter

May 05, 2002|By Kevin Murphy | Kevin Murphy,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - For 88 years, a gray marble statue of George Glick stood tall in the U.S. Capitol with the likes of George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

Pretty good company for an 1880s, one-term governor of Kansas - too good to last.

Glick will make dubious history next January when he becomes the first personage ever to be removed from the Capitol's storied National Statuary Hall collection, started in 1864 to let each state honor two of its own. A bronze statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a slightly more famous Kansan, will take Glick's place.

The switch is part of a house cleaning and modernization of the Capitol's statue collection. Almost half were placed in the collection between 1870 and 1910, which helps explain the obscurity of many of the figures today. The current collection is "largely what the states viewed as their heroes at the turn of the century," said Bruce Milhans, spokesman for the Capitol architect's office, which oversees the building.

"We are talking about the national Capitol, and we need representation that everyone can relate to," said Lynda Scheele, chairman of the Eisenhower Foundation of Abilene, Kan., proponents of the new statue of the two-term president and World War II commander.

Another Kansas lawmaker, the late Sen. John James Ingalls, soon will be sent home in favor of famed Kansas aviator Amelia Earhart.

Statues popular

The statues are popular on Capitol tours, especially the 38 figures that encircle a dramatic, amphitheater-shaped room on the second floor. The other 59 statues are placed throughout the building, many in the Hall of Columns corridor on the ground floor.

Tourists haven't heard of many of the historic figures, even from their own states. For every George Washington, there is an Ephraim McDowell, a Kentucky surgeon known for removing a gallstone from President James K. Polk.

Most of the figures made names for themselves in politics or on the battlefield. Some, such as physician John Gorrie of Florida, did not. Gorrie tried to make an ice machine to keep fevered patients cool and ended up inventing air conditioning.

In approving the statue collection in 1864, Congress said states should decide who is deserving based on "distinguished civic or military service."

New entries

The average statue has been in the collection 80 years. The most recent addition, in 1997, was Colorado astronaut Jack Swigert of Apollo 13 fame. Any state can replace its statues under legislation Congress passed in 2000. So far, Alabama is the only state other than Kansas planning to do so. It intends to boot former House Rep. Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a former U.S. representative and ambassador to Spain, in favor of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf author and lecturer.

Three states that have had only one statue in the Capitol are adding another, all of them Native Americans.

New Mexico will recognize PopM-i, who organized an uprising against Spanish settlers. North Dakota will honor Sacagawea, guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nevada will add a statue of Sarah Winnemucca, who established the state's first school for Native Americans.

The changes require state legislative approval and extensive private fund-raising.

Glick, Kansas' first Democratic governor in 1883, is best known for creating a livestock sanitary commission that curbed an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Ingalls, a Massachusetts native, worked to make Kansas slave-free.

Both statues will be retired to the Kansas State House in Topeka.

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