The Commission now recommends replacing two statues and narrows field of candidates
Salem, OR—The Statuary Hall Study Commission has announced two major decisions and scheduled a public hearing where it is expected to complete its work. The nine-member public commission is charged with recommending to the Oregon State Legislature the fate of the statues representing Oregon in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.
In a recent letter to Governor Kitzhaber and legislative leadership, Commission Chair Jerry Hudson announced that the commission had unanimously agreed to recommend that the statues of pre-statehood leaders Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857) and Reverend Jason Lee (1803-1845) be returned to “places of honor” in Oregon and that “two equally worthy individuals who represent different chapters in Oregon’s history” be installed in the National Statuary Hall. The McLoughlin and Lee statues were approved by the 1921 Oregon State Legislative Assembly and eventually installed in the United States Capitol in 1953.
The Commission has also announced that the four individuals still under consideration to represent Oregon in National Statuary Hall are Native American leader Chief Joseph (Heinmot Tooyalakekt, 1840-1904), suffragist and women’s rights activist Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915), and public officials Tom McCall (1913-1983), and Mark Hatfield (1922-2011).
The Commission will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. (note time change) on Wednesday, March 4 in the Alumni Lounge at Willamette University, where it will invite public testimony and hear a presentation from the Oregon Historical Society on the four finalists. Additionally, the Commission invites all Oregonians to share their opinions via the Oregon Historical Society website.
The National Statuary Hall is the result of legislation passed by Congress in 1864 inviting each state to send two statues of citizens “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service.” The National Statuary Hall collection now includes 100 statues contributed by the fifty states. Legislation enacted by Congress in 2000 provides procedures for states to reclaim and replace statues. Seven states have since done so. Governor Kitzhaber created the Statuary Hall Study Commission by Executive Order on August 20, 2014, and assigned them the task of reporting to the Oregon State Legislative Assembly whether the statues of John McLoughlin and Jason Lee should be returned to Oregon, and, if so, who should be sent as replacements. Five members of the Commission were appointed by Governor Kitzhaber; and two members each were appointed by the President of the Oregon State Senate and the Speaker of the Oregon House.
National Statuary Hall was created by Congress in 1864, and over the past 150 years, each state has sent statues of two “worthy individuals” to be displayed in Washington, D.C. In 1921, the Oregon State Legislature recommended that Jason Lee and Dr. John McLoughlin represent our state, and in 1953 those statues were placed in Statuary Hall. As time passed, some state legislatures expressed interest in replacing historical figures who no longer best represented the history and values of their state. In 2000, Congress adopted legislation allowing states to replace their statues.
On August 20, 2014, Governor John Kitzhaber established the Statuary Hall Study Commission by Executive Order to determine whether Oregon’s statues of John McLoughlin and Jason Lee should remain or be replaced by other notable Oregonians. The Commission consists of nine voting members—five appointed by the Governor, two appointed by Senate President Peter Courtney, and two appointed by Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.
The Commission is charged with studying and recommending to the 2015 Oregon Legislative Assembly whether to replace one or both of Oregon’s statues. If a replacement is recommended, the Commission, with input from Oregonians, will recommend which individual(s) should be honored in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
To learn more about the individuals who have been recommended by the Commission for consideration, visit the Oregon Encyclopedia, or click on any of the links above.