Overview of National Statuary Hall
The National Statuary Hall collection was established in 1864, when Congress invited each state to send two statues, of leading citizens of the state’s choice, to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Originally all the statues were displayed in Statuary Hall itself; today the collection of 102 statues is displayed throughout the Capitol.
(The collection includes two statues from each state, a statue of Frederick Douglas representing the District of Columbia, and a statue of Rosa Parks, which Congress added to the collection although it does not represent a particular state.)
States select their statues by an act of the legislature, and states are responsible for commissioning and paying for their own statues. For that reason, many states took decades to select, commission, and submit two statues.
The structure and history of Statuary Hall can lead to unusual historical anomalies. In the 1870s, the State of New York selected George Clinton and Robert Livingston, both prominent Founding-era statesmen. This means that Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, both New Yorkers and both considered among the top five U.S. Presidents, are not represented. In addition, states such as Virginia have more than two citizens deserving of representation; the state is represented by George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The Architect of the Capitol has allayed this problem somewhat by displaying statues in the U.S. Capitol that are not part of the collection, including Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, Grant, and Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2000, Congress passed legislation authorizing state’s to “swap out” old statues for new ones, continuing to limit each state to two. The legislation recognized that many states had made their selections decades or even a century earlier, and more significant historical figures had emerged. The first “swap” occurred in 2003, when Kansas submitted Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President and a WWII hero, to replace George Washington Glick, the state’s ninth governor.
Since that time, more than a dozen statues have been replaced, or are in the process of being replaced. California replaced Rev. Thomas Starr King with Ronald Reagan. Ohio replaced William Allen, a governor and U.S. Senator, with Thomas Edison. Arizona submitted U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater to supplant WWI-era General John Campbell Greenway. Missouri has commissioned a statue of President Harry Truman, while North Carolina has authorized evangelist Billy Graham for inclusion.
Withdrawn statues are returned to the state, and are often displayed at the State Capitol or at another significant location.
Those portrayed by statues must be deceased. The most obvious candidates for inclusion are distinguished statesmen and military leaders. Some states have looked beyond that, though, sending:
- Authors (Helen Keller of Alabama and a pending statue of Willa Cather of Nebraska),
- Missionaries (Juniperro Serra of California, Father Damien of Hawaii, Jacques Marquette of Wisconsin, Eusebio Kino of Arizona, Mother Joseph of Washington, and the pending statue of Billy Graham of North Carolina),
- Educators (Maria Sanford of Minnesota and a pending statue of Mary McLeod Bethune from Florida),
- Scientists and inventors (Thomas Edison of Ohio, Robert Fulton of Pennsylvania, Norman Borlaug of Iowa, and Philo T. Farnsworth of Utah),
- Astronaut Jack Swigert of Colorado, and
- Humorist Will Rogers of Oklahoma.
Native Americans and indigenous peoples are also well-represented in Statuary Hall. Oklahoma is represented by two Native Americans, Cherokee citizen Will Rogers and Sequoyah. Others include King Kamehameha I of Hawaii, Sarah Winnemucca of Nevada, Po’pay of New Mexico, Sequoyah of Oklahoma, and Washakie of Wyoming.
All of this begs the question: Should South Dakota join the thirteen other states that have swapped at least one statue?
(I generally don’t like historical revisionism, and so I’d be perfectly happy with our current choices. But, I can see merit in the discussion, and I certainly don’t disagree with states who have had more obvious picks – such as Reagan or Eisenhower – emerge since their original choices.)
South Dakota’s statues
South Dakota submitted its first statue, of General William Henry Harrison Beadle, in 1938. The state’s second statue, of Reverend Joseph Ward, was added in 1963. Both were significant figures in the territorial and early statehood eras.
General W. H. H. Beadle came to Dakota territory in 1869 when President Grant appointed Beadle, a Union Army general and civil engineer, to be surveyor-general of the territory. Beadle served in the territorial legislature and as commissioner of school lands. In that role, he advocated for a constitutional provision in South Dakota that set aside lands to support public schools; Congress required that the provision also be included in the constitutions of North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. Beadle served for fifteen years as president of Madison Normal School (later, General Beadle State College and today, Dakota State University).
Rev. Joseph Ward also came to Dakota territory in 1869 as a missionary, founding a church in Yankton. He became a leader in education, founding Yankton College (which closed in 1984) and Yankton Academy, the precursor to the territory’s first public high school. Ward also helped establish the Dakota Hospital for the Insane, today the Human Services Center, in Yankton. Ward attended each of the state’s constitutional conventions and is credited with designing the state seal and suggesting the state motto, “Under God, the People Rule.”
Who should replace Beadle or Ward?
South Dakota could choose to retain Beadle and Ward at Statuary Hall; both are significant figures and credible choices. The state could, though decide to replace both statues, or to retain one while replacing the other. (It is probably fair to assume that Beadle would be retained and Ward replaced in this scenario). I have put together a list of possibilities, listed alphabetically. Please email me to make the case for an addition, keeping in mind that only deceased persons are eligible. Here is the list, including my names and those that have been submitted to me:
Tom Berry – South Dakota’s “cowboy governor” was a West River rancher known for his folksy humor. A Democrat, Berry took office during the Great Depression and a severe farm crisis. He cut state spending twenty-five percent, ended many progressive-era programs, and imposed a state income tax. Berry personally directed New Deal relief programs and built a close relationship with the Roosevelt administration. He fell short in his bid for a third term as governor and twice in bids for U.S. Senate.
Gutzon Borglum – The sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Borglum’s selection would be a backhanded way to refer to the state’s most famous site. Borglum, however, was not a native South Dakotan and only lived in the state during the fourteen years that he worked on the monument.
Francis Case – Case represented the state’s Second District (West River) in the U.S. House for fourteen years, 1937-51, and then in the U.S. Senate from 1951 until his death in 1962. He was involved in creation of the Pick-Sloan Plan for Missouri River development (Lake Francis Case, created by the Fort Randall Dam, is named for him) and ensured that Interstate 29 ran through eastern South Dakota rather than western Minnesota.
Crazy Horse – A Lakota warrior, leading the fight against the U.S. Army in the 1860s and 1870s, including at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He is the subject of South Dakota’s other colossal monument. One challenge, which the Crazy Horse Monument sculptors also faced, is that no reliable image of Crazy Horse exists.
W. O. Farber – Dr. Farber came to USD to teach government in 1935. Although he retired in the 1970s, he continued to work and was involved in the campus community until his death in 2007. Dr. Farber proposed and led the creation of the Legislative Research Council. Prominent among the “Farber Boys” are Tom Brokaw and Al Neuharth, and many South Dakota political figures cite his influence, including Larry Pressler, Dennis Daugaard, and Dusty Johnson.
Joe Foss – A heroic World War II naval aviator and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Foss served as Governor of South Dakota 1955-59. Although Foss’ tenure as governor was successful, it is his war record that has earned him continued fame. Foss left South Dakota after his time in office, serving as commissioner of the American Football League and president of the National Rifle Association, and hosting outdoors television shows.
Wild Bill Hickok – An Old West folk hero, marksman, and professional gambler, he was murdered in 1876 in Deadwood. Hickok certainly evokes the “Old West” image of Deadwood, but was as much rogue as hero, and he spent only intermittent time in the state.
Hubert H. Humphrey – To irritate our easterly neighbor, South Dakota could select Humphrey, a South Dakota native who was born in Wallace, graduated from Doland High School, and worked for a time in Huron. Humphrey would be someday be a suitable candidate from Minnesota, where he served as Mayor of Minneapolis and U.S. Senator, in addition to serving as Vice President and being nominated for President in 1968.
William J. Janklow – Janklow’s selection would be as controversial as he often was in life, particularly given the tragic circumstances that ended his political career, but his record of accomplishment in office requires his consideration: from saving the state railroad system and launching the financial services sector to wiring the schools for internet access and personally leading the response to natural disasters. Janklow was not only South Dakota’s longest serving governor; he is the third-longest-serving governor in U.S. History.
Ernest O. Lawrence – A Canton native and USD graduate, E. O. Lawrence was the winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a particle accelerator used in nuclear physics. Lawrence participated in the Manhattan Project during WWII and witnessed the first test of a nuclear bomb in New Mexico in 1945. He founded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both of which were named in his honor, and is the namesake of lawrencium, a synthetic chemical element and radioactive metal with the atomic number 103. Although Lawrence achieved none of this in South Dakota, he is a towering figure in physics, and as South Dakota attracts worldwide attention for the Sanford Underground Research Facility, Lawrence’s ties to that field could be compelling.
George S. McGovern – A two-term Congressman and three-term U.S. Senator, McGovern was the 1972 Democratic nominee for President. He had a heroic war record in WWII, led JFK’s “food for peace” program, and was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. After his political career ended, McGovern joined with Senator Bob Dole to lead efforts to fight world hunger. Although a prominent national figure, McGovern failed to carry South Dakota in 1972 and ultimately lost reelection in 1980; he likewise might struggle to win support to represent the state in this way.
Arthur C. Mellette – Mellette came to Dakota Territory to serve as a land agent. Settling in Watertown, he became a prosperous attorney and a leader of the statehood movement. A native of Indiana, he was appointed Governor of Dakota Territory by President Benjamin Harrison, a fellow Hoosier, and then was elected the first Governor of South Dakota. Mellette was an effective chief executive but he made his great historical mark after he left office. When the state treasurer absconded with the treasury, Mellette, who although innocent was a bondsman, forfeited his fortune and nearly all of his property to help restore the lost funds. Ashamed, he moved to Kansas where he died a broken man.
Karl Mundt – Mundt represented South Dakota in Congress longer than anyone else; serving ten years in the U.S. House and four terms in the U.S. Senate, from 1938-73. Mundt was a close friend of Richard Nixon’s and an ardent anti-communist; he was also an effective representative of his state until he was debilitated by a stroke that forced his retirement. Although a towering figure in his day, Mundt has perhaps passed from the public consciousness more than some others on this list.
Oscar Micheaux – A Chicago native, Micheaux is widely regarded as the first African-American filmmaker. He came to Gregory County, South Dakota as a homesteader, and although he later returned to Chicago, his time in South Dakota informed his films.
George S. Mickelson – Governor Mickelson, the son of another governor, served from 1987 until his death in 1993. He promoted economic development, tourism, and reconciliation with the state’s tribes. Certainly Mickelson’s reputation is enhanced by his tragic death, but he was certainly a well-liked and successful chief executive.
Peter Norbeck – Peter Norbeck was the first native South Dakotan to serve as its Governor or as its U.S. Senator. Norbeck, born near Vermillion, made his home in Redfield, where he founded and led the largest well-drilling business in five states. He served as Governor from 1917-21 and U.S. Senator from 1921 until his death in 1936, and his vision led to much of what makes South Dakota unique. Norbeck helped introduce the Chinese ring-necked pheasant into South Dakota and held the first pheasant-hunting season. He brought Borglum to South Dakota and was an early and stalwart promoter of Mount Rushmore. Norbeck founded Custer State Park, playing a huge personal role in the development of the Needles Highway, the State Game Lodge, and Iron Mountain Road. He invited President Coolidge to summer at the State Game Lodge, attracting national attention and launching the state’s tourism industry. He advocated for the founding of Badlands National Monument (today a National Park), Wind Cave National Park, and Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. Norbeck’s record has its blemishes; his progressive-era advocacy for state-owned enterprises largely led to failure, and his leadership during WWI included reactionary measures aimed at immigrants and Germans.
Al Neuharth – A Eureka native, Neuharth made his first foray into journalism when he founded the short-lived SoDak Sports. Neuharth left the state to continue his career, first joining the Miami Herald, and went on to found the groundbreaking USA Today, which became the largest-circulation newspaper in the country.
Gladys Pyle – A pioneer for women in South Dakota politics, Pyle became the first woman elected to the State Legislature only four years after women in South Dakota gained the right to vote. She subsequently became the first woman elected statewide, as Secretary of State, and was nearly elected Governor in 1930. After Norbeck’s death, Pyle was elected to complete his term; her brief tenure made her the first woman to represent South Dakota in Congress, the first Republican woman in the U.S. Senate, and the first woman in the United States to be elected to the U.S. Senate without having previously been appointed.
Red Cloud – An Oglala Lakota warrior and leader for forty years, he led his people in Red Cloud’s war in the 1860s. Later, Red Cloud signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie and led the transition to reservation life.
Ben Reifel – Born on the Rosebud Reservation, Reifel was elected to the U.S. House following a career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Serving in Congress from 1961-71, he became the first Native American to represent South Dakota in Congress, and the first Lakota Sioux to serve in Congress from any state. Reifel pushed for water development projects and was instrumental in bringing the EROS Data Center to the state.
Theodore Schultz – A native of Badger, Schultz was a graduate of SDSU. Earning his doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Schultz eventually joined the faculty of the prestigious school of economics at the University of Chicago. His work in developmental economics in agriculture led to Schultz being awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1979.
Sitting Bull – Another Lakota warrior, he led his people in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Sitting Bull later become famous as a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, before returning to the reservation. He was killed while under arrest in 1890, amidst increased tensions arising from the “Ghost Dance” movement.
John C. Waldron – Commander Waldron, a native of Fort Pierre, was a heroic WWII naval aviator who died along with most of squadron at the Battle of Midway in 1942 after they waged an unsupported attack against Japanese carriers. Waldron won the Navy Cross posthumously for his valor in the battle, which was credited with making the American victory at Midway possible.
Laura Ingalls Wilder – The author of the “Little House” books, Wilder was born in Wisconsin, lived most of her adult life in Missouri, and set her books in states including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oklahoma. But five of her nine books took place in or near De Smet, which she dubbed the “Little Town on the Prairie,” and although her books her fictionalized, they embody the pioneer spirit of those settlers who came to Dakota in the late 1800s.
Korczak Ziolkowski – As with Borglum, Ziolkowski’s selection would honor not only the sculptor himself, but the sculpture he created. Ziolkowski spent much longer in the state than Borglum – thirty-five years versus fourteen. Mount Rushmore is more famous, but Crazy Horse Monument is far more ambitious and its subject honors another notable South Dakotan.