Politics and Government

Hubert H. Humphrey could replace Henry Mower Rice in proposed congressional statue swap

A tall brown statue of a standing man
The Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial on Minnesota State Capitol grounds could be heading to Washington D.C.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated April 18, 11 a.m. | Posted April 17, 3:40 p.m.

The Minnesota House could soon vote on a proposal to swap out a statue of former U.S. Sen. Henry Mower Rice with former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in the National Statuary Hall in Washington.

Humphrey attended the University of Minnesota and helped create the DFL Party. In 1948, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served three terms. He was the lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and served as vice president from 1965-1969 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He died in 1978.

On Wednesday, The House Rules Committee advanced the plan to ask the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to grant the change. The measure also made it into a state budget bill moving toward a vote in the House, which would make it part of end-of-session negotiations.

House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, said the swap would cost the state roughly $300,000 to recast the Humphrey statue and transport it to the U.S. Capitol. The Rice statue would be turned over to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Each state has two statue spaces in Statuary Hall. Currently, Minnesota’s statues depict Rice and former rhetoric and education professor Maria Sanford. Rice’s statue can be removed since it’s been in place since 1916, longer than the 10-year requirement.

Congressional requirements mandate that states put forward statues of marble or bronze depicting “deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services.”

Long said Humphrey had a meaningful impact on U.S. history and would be a strong representative for Minnesota.

A tall brown statue of a standing man
Hubert H. Humphrey was the 38th vice president of the United States. He attended the University of Minnesota, and helped create the Minnesota DFL Party.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“I think it’s time that we update our representation; 1916 was a long time ago and I think that the Legislature at that time sent the statue that best represented their impact on the national stage at that time and I think that we’ve had a century of history since then,” Long said.

Authors and historians echoed the sentiment during the committee hearing, citing Humphrey’s contributions to civil rights advances.

“He was a spirited and strong public supporter and his political support helped us in our early struggles for the rights of our people,” said Josie R. Johnson, community organizer and former University of Minnesota regent. “We were friends and colleagues working on our shared political and social issues.”

The bill has not yet moved through a Senate committee, but the inclusion in a House budget bill means it is on course for consideration in May.

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