A key question about the statue of President Harry S. Truman intended for the U.S. Capitol is closer to resolution.
The office of Gov. Mike Parson, without further comment, announced Thursday that the governor has signed a measure through which state legislators request that Truman’s statue replace that of Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, a key figure in Missouri’s first few decades of statehood.
Sculptor Tom Corbin is working on the Truman statue, expected to be placed in the Capitol Rotunda sometime next year, the 75th anniversary of the year Truman became president. The money for the statue was raised privately.
Each state has two statues at the Capitol, highlighting historically significant people. States occasionally will switch a statue, as Kansas did with President Eisenhower and California did with President Reagan.
Missouri’s two current statues are:
• Benton, who worked for statehood and was the state’s first U.S. senator, serving 30 years. He prominently opposed slavery in the decades before the Civil War. (He is the great uncle and namesake of Thomas Hart Benton the artist, who had many local and regional connections.)
• Francis Preston Blair Jr., who played a key role in keeping Missouri in the Union during the Civil War and who was in some ways a protege of Benton. He served briefly in Congress and was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1868.
The Missouri General Assembly voted 17 years ago to put in a Truman statue and remove Blair, but the effort to get a new statue created languished for several years.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II took up the case about five years ago, saying at the time it was obvious that Benton was more widely remembered and should stay rather than Blair. But Republicans have strong majorities both in the General Assembly and in Missouri’s congressional delegation, and their insistence on Blair won out.
Formally, it’s the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress that decides on the placement of new and old statues. The bill the governor signed Thursday makes Missouri’s request to that committee.
The Benton statue is to be returned to Missouri.