Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 13, 2021
The state legislative effort to remove the figure of Alexander Stephens from the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a likeness of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis will begin in earnest on Wednesday with a bipartisan resolution promoting the change.
The measure is to be sponsored by state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, a coalition that symbolizes the consensus behind the push to put a statue of the civil rights hero in place of Stephens, a white supremacist who was the vice president of the Confederacy.
The move would require the approval of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has previously backed the idea, and the General Assembly, where it’s expected to easily pass. Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Senate, each expressed their support for the swap shortly after Lewis’ July 17 death.
Duncan said in an earlier statement that it’s “time for our state to be represented in the National Statuary Hall by a figure that aligns with our state’s core values — that all are created equal — and I’ll advocate for that figure to be Rep. John Lewis.”
Each state gets two statues in the Statuary Hall, and Stephens has represented Georgia since 1927 at the U.S. Capitol. Georgia’s other honoree, Crawford W. Long, was a 19th century physician who pioneered the use of ether in surgery.
A prominent Georgia politician, Stephens was a secessionist who was elected vice president of the Confederacy in 1861. In his famous “Cornerstone Speech,” he called slavery the “natural and normal condition” of black people.
The 2020 letter urging the removal of Stephens’ statue was signed by former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, and nine Georgia members of the U.S. House, including three other Democrats in the delegation.