ATLANTA, GEORGIA – A statue of the late representative and civil rights leader John Lewis could soon replace the image of Alexander Stephens, slave owner and vice president of the Confederacy, in the National Statute Hall of the United States Capitol, under a bipartisan resolution introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives in Georgia.
The push to remove Stephens in favor of Lewis, who served as Georgia lawmaker for 33 years, comes amid a nationwide examination of conscience on Confederation celebrations. Dozens of Confederate statues fell during the racial justice protests during the spring and summer.
The resolution is sponsored by state legislator Al Williams, a Democrat from Midway, Texas, and has the backing of Republican House Speaker David Ralston.
Prominent Georgia politicians on both sides supported the idea after Lewis’ death in July, including Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. A majority of the Georgia Congressional delegation signed a letter asking Kemp, Ralston and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan to replace Stephens’s statue with one of Lewis.
Three former US presidents pay tribute to civil rights icon John Lewis
The late lawmaker was last celebrated at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“John Lewis’s commitment to nonviolence in the pursuit of justice for all inspired millions of people in Georgia, the United States, and the world. Because of the life and activism of John Lewis, America is more just and kinder, “said US legislator Sanford Bishop in a statement after Lewis’s death.
“There is no better Georgian we can choose to represent our state on our nation’s Capitol than our dear friend, colleague and hero, John Robert Lewis,” Bishop said.
Each state is represented by two statues in the US Capitol building, Stephens is on display as one of Georgia’s statues since 1927.
Stephens was a white supremacist who lived from 1812 to 1883. In addition to his role in the Confederacy, he served in Congress and was Governor of Georgia for four months before his death.
Lewis was originally from Alabama, but he made Atlanta his home for a long time. He is perhaps best known for leading civil rights protesters in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where police fractured his skull.