LITTLE ROCK — Statues of civil rights pioneer Daisy Bates and musician Johnny Cash destined for Statuary Hall inside the nation’s Capitol weren’t completed at the end of 2022, but officials hope they will be soon ready.
Shealyn Sowers, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said the official letter from sculptor Kevin Kresse’s engineering brief for the Johnny Cash statue was sent last week to the Capitol’s architect and the Joint Committee on the library.
“We just received the official letter from the Joint Library Committee approving Kevin Kresse’s engineering brief for the Johnny Cash statue and pedestal,” Sowers said Friday night. “Both statues have received their final approvals and can now be bronzed.”
Sowers said the clay statues for each have been completed for some time. She said the process of engineering packages and approvals took longer than state officials had hoped due to the Congressional schedule, but added that hopefully all would remain on track for the installation of the statues this year.
Kevin Niehaus, assistant secretary of state, said the Bates statue was sent to the foundry for casting last month.
Kresse, of Little Rock, and fellow sculptor Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho, received commissions in June to create the portraits of Cash and Bates, respectively. The statues were approved under Arkansas Law 1068 of 2019.
There was a debate in the Legislative Assembly in 2019 about who would best represent the state. Some lawmakers have suggested someone like Sam Walton, founder of Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart, would be a better option, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson pushed for Cash and Bates.
“I couldn’t be happier with Arkansas’ picks,” Kresse said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
He posted a photo of the Cash sculpture, saying he finished it two or three months ago and after Friday’s approval he could take it to the foundry.
“I’m also extremely proud to be a native son of Arkansas, to have this opportunity to carve an icon of Arkansas for the nation’s capitol,” Kresse said in the post.
Bates grew up in Huttig and mentored the nine students who entered Little Rock Central High School in 1957. She and her husband, LC Bates, published the Arkansas State Press newspaper, which focused on civil rights and issues. within the black community. They were active in the NAACP and Daisy Bates was the only woman to speak on the official program for the 1963 March on Washington.
Cash was born in Kingston and raised in the farming community of Dyess, and went on to become one of the most brilliant and influential musicians of the 20th century. He helped launch the era of rock ‘n’ roll with his recordings for Memphis-based Sun Records before becoming a force in country music as well as an advocate for prisoners’ rights and other causes.
An Arkansas PBS documentary will tell the story behind the Bates and Cash sculptures. Director Nathan Willis began work on the documentary earlier this year.
Courtney Pledger, executive director and CEO of Arkansas PBS, said earlier this year that the film will document “a story of artistic creation, but also an unfolding human story. There are those actors behind the scenes and the visionaries. There are the artists and the human figures of Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash, and all that they have achieved in their lives and how they have inspired these works of art.
The statues will replace those of lawyer Uriah Rose, a secessionist, and U.S. Senator and Governor James P. Clarke, who advocated for white supremacy. These statues have been in Statuary Hall for over a century.
Michael Harry, a legislative affairs attorney in the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, told the state capitol arts and grounds commission last year that he contacted the historic cemetery park in Arkansas. ‘Oakland and Fraternal in Little Rock to accept statues of Rose and Clarke.
“This is a very unique situation in that these statues have been on display in the United States Capitol for 100 years,” Harry told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last year. “We as a state have never seen this happen before.”
. Statues Bates Cash Arkansas Receive Final Approvals Ready For Tan