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Md. lawmakers fight proposed swap of statues in U.S. Capitol

"He served his country enormously and with distinction, too," Lee added.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Hanson's sculpture should remain in Washington.

"What better place. . . [for] the first president of the United States to be than the Capitol of the United States?" Miller said. "It's inconceivable to me that they would put that statue somewhere else. He was a great Southern Marylander, a great Marylander and a great hero to the nation."

Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George's) also called Tubman a "hero to the nation" and said that a special category should be established in Statuary Hall for women and blacks who were not considered when states first were invited to contribute statues in 1864.

Miller pointed to his successful push to get a statue of civil rights leader Thurgood Marshall built, following Marshall's death in 1993, on the opposite side of the statehouse from one of Roger Taney, the fifth chief justice of the United States, who is best known for authoring the majority opinion in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857, which ruled that blacks could not be considered citizens under the Constitution.

Marshall successfully argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 before becoming the first black person to join the court as a justice in 1967.

John Hanson Briscoe, a direct descendant of John Hanson who served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1962 to 1979, agreed with Miller that Tubman deserves a statue but not at Hanson's expense.

"Under no circumstances would it be appropriate, and I would like to think the legislature wouldn't approve such a bill after all these years, like John Hanson did something wrong and doesn't belong there," said Briscoe, an active retired St. Mary's County Circuit Court judge who occasionally is recalled to the bench to hear cases.

He said he will not testify on the bill because, as a judge, he must abstain from engaging in partisan politics.

Briscoe, of Hollywood, admitted that as a direct descendant of Hanson he is biased, but he believes that the bill's authors were "very dismissive" of Hanson and his historical significance.

"I just can't understand why they're taking this tack," Briscoe said.

Both versions of the bill were scheduled to go before their assigned committees Feb. 23 and await a favorable report before going to the Senate and House floors for a vote.

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