CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A bill filed by Republican lawmakers in Raleigh would replace a statue of a former governor now widely criticized for his role in the state’s white supremacist campaigns with a statue of Billy Graham, North Carolina’s world-famous evangelist also known for his past anti-Semitic comments and anti-LGBT positions.
Mecklenburg Republican Charles Jeter and House Majority leader Mike Hager (Rutherford) filed the bill this week. It would remove former North Carolina Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock from National Statuary Hall and replace it with Graham.
“He is someone that I think all of North Carolina can be proud of,” Jeter said Friday, according to WRAL.
The bill asks Congress to make the switch and also creates a committee to raise money for and commission the Graham statue, WRAL said. The committee and fundraising would be overseen by the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Library.
Aycock, governor of the state from 1901 to 1905, was once widely lauded for his public education reform efforts. In recent years, his legacy has been recast as historians, civic leaders, activists and students dig deeper into his connections with and leadership of white supremacist campaigns which disenfranchised black citizens.
Aycock is also connected to the violent 1898 Wilmington Race Riots, when white Democrats attacked the city’s black newspaper, killed as many as 15-60 people in an effort to violently unseat the biracial city government. It has been described as the only successful coup d’etat in U.S. history. State Democrats have in recent years dropped Aycock’s name from an annual fundraiser. Students at Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and other schools have also been reevaluating buildings named after the governor.
But Graham’s placement in National Statuary Hall won’t be without controversy either, something Jeter acknowledged with WRAL.
Graham was widely condemned for what many saw as anti-Semitic comments in tape recordings released from the Nixon White House. In those conversations, Graham described Jews as belonging to the “synagogue of Satan,” and agreed with Nixon that Jews controlled Hollywood and the media, blasting them for publishing pornography.
“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” Graham told Nixon.
Graham also supported North Carolina’s 2012 constitutional amendment banning marriage for LGBT couples, publishing in ad and launching a campaign to support the amendment in the final days of the campaign in May 2012.
Still, Jeter supports the effort.
“This might be one of the easier things we try to get done this year,” he said. “We think it’s almost a no-brainer.”
National Statuary Hall is in the U.S. Capitol building. Each state is represented by two statues. North Carolina is currently represented by statues of Aycock and former Gov. Zebulon Vance.