Overby Center: What statues should represent Mississippi?

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Architect of the Capitol

Jefferson Davis statue in Statuary Hall

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will address the issue Wednesday of whether Mississippi should be represented in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall by two 19th century figures prominent in the secessionist movement.

The program, “Revisiting Jefferson Davis and J.Z. George: U.S. Capitol Relics?” begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The Overby Center is on the Ole Miss campus.

Overby Center chairman Charles Overby will be joined in the discussion by William “Brother” Rogers, president of the Mississippi Historical Society, and Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.

“We expect a robust discussion about whether any 20th century Mississippians should be placed in the Statuary Hall,” Overby said in a press release. “A lot has happened since the Legislature made their selections in 1931.”

The release notes that King holds a Ph.D from the University of North Texas. A member of the Ole Miss faculty, his core teaching and research interests are African American politics, the politics of the American South and American Federalism. He is a senior faculty fellow at Residential College South.

Rogers served as associate director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service at Mississippi State University for 26 years, the release states. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1987, was named a Truman Scholar and earned his master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University. Rogers has photographed every historical marker in Mississippi and created a website (www.mississippimarkers.com) that displays nearly 1,300 markers.

“There is no question that Davis and George were political leaders from Mississippi in the 19th century,” Overby said in the release. “The question is whether there are 20 th century Mississippians equally or more deserving to represent Mississippi today.”

“Mississippi has an impressive list of accomplished 20th century citizens worthy of consideration,” Overby continued. “They range from Senator John Stennis to authors William Faulkner and Eudora Welty to civil rights leader Medgar Evers, along with many others.”

Changing the figures representing states has occurred recently. For example, in 2009 Alabama replaced Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a congressman and Confederate officer, with Helen Keller.

Any changes must be approved by the legislature, governor and a Congressional committee. The law requires persons selected for statues to be “illustrious for historic renown for distinguished civic or military service.”

Editor’s note: Overby is on the board of directors of Mississippi Today.

  • Otis

    My choices:

    Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931)
    William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962)
    Riley Benjamin (B.B.) King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)
    Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977)