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Opinion: John Lewis should represent Ga. in D.C.’s Statuary Hall

FILE - In this June 24, 2015 file photo, a statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the Confederate vice president throughout the American Civil War, is on display in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif is calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol as the contentious debate over the appropriateness of such memorials moves to the halls of Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this June 24, 2015 file photo, a statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the Confederate vice president throughout the American Civil War, is on display in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif is calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol as the contentious debate over the appropriateness of such memorials moves to the halls of Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Credit: Susan Walsh

Credit: Susan Walsh

Each year, more than 3 million people from around the world visit the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Millions of us have walked through Statuary Hall and admired the men and women whose statues line the walls. In 1864, Congress first created the tradition that every state provide two statues of citizens “illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services” to be displayed in the Capitol. Historical figures and American patriots like Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Dwight Eisenhower and George Washington have been chosen by their respective home states and are proudly on display.

Nearly a century ago, the state of Georgia selected its two statues, Crawford Long and Alexander Hamilton Stephens. Alexander Hamilton Stephens was the vice president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865 and subsequently served as the governor of Georgia between 1882 and 1883. Following the passing of our friend, civil rights champion and Georgia U.S. Representative John Robert Lewis, we knew his legacy and dedication to making this nation a better place for all Americans needed to be preserved in our nation’s Capitol.

That’s why this week we teamed up to ask Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, House Speaker David Ralston and the Georgia General Assembly to consider enacting a resolution that would replace the Stephens statue with a statue of our beloved colleague, friend, and hero John Lewis. We were joined by eight Members of the Georgia Congressional delegation, Senator David Perdue, Congressman Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-06), Congressman Rob Woodall (GA-07), Congressman David Scott (GA-13), Congressman Rick Allen (GA-12), and Congressman Drew Ferguson (GA-03).

There is no Georgian more worthy of this great honor than John Lewis, who symbolizes for us not only what Georgia once was, but what it can and should be. He inspired millions of people in Georgia, the United States, and around the world with his bravery, his commitment to nonviolent activism, his pursuit of equal justice and voting rights, and his unwavering belief in our democracy.

From the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where his skull was fractured by the police on the march to Montgomery for the right to vote, to the halls of the United States Congress where he cast his vote as the representative from Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District for more than 33 years, John Lewis’ story is America’s story. He inspired us as the “conscience of the Congress” for his courage and sacrifice in making “good trouble” and his enduring humility. We have all been truly blessed to know, love and share the life and legacy of this extraordinary human being.

The world is a better place because John Lewis spent his life pursuing freedom, justice, opportunity, love and peace for all of humanity.

We urge the General Assembly to consider this request, and to honor and recognize his contributions by providing a statue to be placed in the National Statuary Hall so that John can continue to inspire future generations to make “good trouble.”

By Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14).