JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawmaker says art at the Mississippi Capitol should be updated to reflect accomplishments of African-Americans.
Democratic Sen. John Horhn of Jackson tells The Associated Press that he would like to see statues of former Rep. Robert Clark of Ebenezer and the late Sen. Henry Kirksey of Jackson put up outside the building.
“My personal thinking is that the exterior avails visitors the opportunity to have access to it any time of day or night,” Horhrn said.
In 1967, Clark became the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to the Mississippi Legislature. He helped push the Education Reform Act of 1982 into law when he was House Education Committee Chairman. In 1992, Clark’s House colleagues elected him to House speaker pro tempore, the chamber’s second-highest leadership position. He chose not to seek re-election in 2003. Clark, 89, still lives in the Delta.
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Kirksey was elected to the state Senate in 1979 and served eight years. He pushed redistricting efforts that led to more black representation in Mississippi government. Kirksey was 90 when he died in 2006.
Horhn said he has spoken to the Senate Rules and House Management committees about the possibility of adding statues on the Capitol grounds. Discussions are still in the early stages, and Horhn said private fundraising could be needed.
The first floor hallway of the Capitol currently has portraits of most of Mississippi’s governors — all of them, white men.
A large monument to Confederate women, put up by a Confederate veterans’ group, sits outside the building.
A statue of Theodore G. Bilbo stands in a first-floor meeting room that is often used by the Legislative Black Caucus. Bilbo, known as a race-baiting demagogue, served two terms as governor — 1916-20 and 1928-32. He was a U.S. senator from 1935 until his death in 1947. The Bilbo statue once stood in the rotunda, which is the central gathering spot of the building. It was moved to a side room during a Capitol renovation more than 30 years ago.
The Capitol also has a small sculpture of the late Evelyn Gandy, who was the first woman to serve as Mississippi lieutenant governor, 1972-76. It is displayed in a second-floor meeting room.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .