The state House of Representatives voted on Thursday afternoon to send a statue of evangelist Billy Graham to the U.S. Capitol, over objections from Democrats who complained that Republicans refused to consider memorializing any other North Carolinian.
Representatives debated for close to an hour on the House floor Thursday—not over the merits of Graham being one of two North Carolina natives represented in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, but over the selection process. Leaders in the Republican majority ushered the bill to the full chamber without hearing it in a committee and declined a proposal to consider civil rights attorney Julius Chambers.
"I'm disturbed that the legend and the legacy of Billy Graham will be soiled by this event," said Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham.
Rep. Chuck Jeter (R-Mecklenburg) filed House Bill 540 early April for Graham to replace former Gov. Charles Aycock, who served from 1901 to 1905. Aycock’s legacy has been criticized in recent years for his views of white supremacy. Jeter filed the bill at the request of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the News and Observer reported.
"I decided that I thought Billy Graham was the best choice, based on people that I spoke with," Jeter said. "Was it some scientifically significant polling data? No. It was not."
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) ruled out of order a proposed amendment by Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) to honor Chambers. Some Republicans asserted—and got rebuttals—that Democrats simply didn’t like the choice of Graham.
The Senate is expected to consider the plan. Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Boone), who worked for seven years for Samaritan’s Purse, a charity run by Graham’s son Franklin, has filed a similar bill.