US Capitol Is Getting a Johnny Cash Statue

Statues of Man in Black, civil rights leader will replace little-known figures from Arkansas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 6, 2024 7:00 PM CDT
US Capitol Is Getting a Johnny Cash Statue
Benjamin Victor works on his sculpture of Daisy Gatson Bates at the Windgate Center of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus on Monday, April 25, 2023.   (Stephen Swofford/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

Instead of two little-known figures from the 18th and 19th centuries, Arkansas will soon be represented at the US Capitol by the "Man in Black" and a woman who was instrumental in the fight over school desegregation. Officials plan to install statues of civil rights leader Daisy Bates this week and musician Johnny Cash later this year, the AP reports.

  • Bates, who headed the state NAACP, mentored the Black students known as the Little Rock Nine who integrated Central High School in 1957. She is a well-known civil rights figure in Arkansas, where a downtown street in the capital, Little Rock, is named in her honor. The 8-foot-tall bronze statue depicts Bates, who with her husband published the Arkansas State Press newspaper, walking with a newspaper in her hand.
  • Sculptor Benjamin Victor says that he began his work by extensively studying Bates and that he hopes the statue will inspire others to study her life and legacy. "A big part of it is to capture that spirit of hers and inspire others to do the same and stand up for what's right," he says.

  • Cash was born in Kingsland, a tiny town about 60 miles south of Little Rock. He died in 2003 at age 71. His achievements include 90 million records sold worldwide spanning country, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. He was among the few artists inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The 8-foot-tall statue of Cash depicts the singer with a guitar slung across his back and a Bible in his hand.
  • Sculptor Kevin Kresse says views Cash as a much-needed addition to the Capitol as a counterbalance to the conflict in Congress. "He walked the walk and he lived what he believed. And that was just this quality that really appealed to me," Kresse says. "And that interior thoughtfulness was something that I really wanted to try to bring out in this sculpture."

  • The Bates and Cash statues will replace ones depicting James P. Clarke, a former governor and US senator in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Uriah Rose, a 19th century attorney. The statues had come under scrutiny, especially over racist comments Clarke made calling on the Democratic Party to preserve "white standards." Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester, a Republican who is now the Senate president pro tem, began calling for the statues to be replaced in 2018. Clarke Tucker, Clarke's great-great-grandson and a Democratic state senator, also called for his ancestor's statue to come down.
  • "I remember giving tours to constituents from Arkansas, to young people, and I would point out the two representatives in Statuary Hall in our United States Capitol from Arkansas," says former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who also served in Congress. "And they would say, 'We've never heard of them.'"
(More US Capitol stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.