If there's room for Zebulon Baird Vance of North Carolina and Uriah Milton Rose of Arkansas, if it's important that South Dakota be represented by William Henry Harrison Beadle and that Hannibal Hamlin stand in for his native state of Maine, then surely, says D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, surely the Capitol's Statuary Hall can provide space and honor for at least one historic figure from the District.
Duke Ellington? Robert Clifton Weaver? Mary Church Terrell?
Right now, there's nobody.
Norton has pressed this point before as part of her unflagging campaign to win the city full recognition and representation in Congress. Two years ago, she introduced House Resolution 3278 -- "to permit statues honoring citizens of the District of Columbia to be placed in Statuary Hall in the same manner as statues honoring citizens of the States are placed in Statuary Hall, and for other purposes" -- and garnered the bipartisan co-sponsorship of two neighbors, Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
GOP leaders never allowed the bill a hearing.
So when her House colleagues passed a resolution last week to place a second statue of a famous New Mexican in the vaunted corridor, Norton made her case once more. She voted yes for the Land of Enchantment and its celebrated Native American, Po'Pay.
"I congratulate the New Mexico delegation," Norton said. Then she urged the rest of the House to grant the same opportunity to her constituents: "Surely the time is overdue."
"The District of Columbia was born with the nation itself," Norton reminded colleagues. "The city has more than two centuries of its very own rich and unique American history . . . [and] boasts distinguished figures in history from whom selections for statues could readily be made."
Ellington, for example, the native-son jazzman whose music is known around the world. Or Charles Drew, whose research into blood plasma led to the first American Red Cross blood bank, which he then served as director.
Or economist Weaver, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. Or maybe Terrell, a high school teacher and principal who became the first black woman in the country to be named to a board of education -- in her case, the District's. She would provide gender diversity in what is almost exclusively a statuary fraternity.
Yet it would seem that others think the gallery is now complete. According to the Architect of the Capitol's Web site, the appearance in pink marble of the 17th-century Pueblo Nation leader (and revolutionary) marks the first time "every state in the Union has been represented by two statues in the collection." Not only that, but "Po'Pay is historically the first person represented . . . to be born on what would become American soil."
Because of its size, the collection is housed not only in the officially named hall (just off the Rotunda and once the House's chamber) but in other prominent locations and spaces throughout the Capitol.
A Norton aide acknowledged last week that the issue of a deceased D.C. luminary's larger-than-life sculpture doesn't carry the same import as, say, voting rights for residents. Yet her boss, she said, sees the value of symbolism.
"She always feels that even the smallest of symbols to make us equal is important," Doxie McCoy said.