LITTLE ROCK — A Democrat running for a congressional seat in Arkansas said Wednesday that a statue of his great-great-grandfather should be removed from the U.S. Capitol, condemning his ancestor's statement that the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve "white standards."
Clarke Tucker wrote in a column published by the Arkansas Times that he thinks the Legislature should replace Arkansas' two statues at the Capitol, including one of his ancestor, James P. Clarke. Clarke was a former governor and U.S. senator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The other statue represents Uriah Rose, a 19th century attorney.
Running for governor in 1894, Clarke said in a speech that "the people of the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve the white standards of civilization." Tucker wrote that his family was "now aware" of the statement, and a campaign spokesman said the state lawmaker didn't know about Clarke's comment until recently. A Republican state legislator last month called for the statues' replacement and had cited the comment.
"Regardless of the time in which Clarke lived, his statement regarding race was inexcusable, and the time has come to have a conversation about who should represent Arkansas in the U.S. Capitol for the time in which we live now," Tucker wrote. "As Clarke's great-great-grandson, it is important for me to say that the time has come for Arkansas to be represented with new statues in the U.S. Capitol."
Tucker is challenging Republican Rep. French Hill in Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, which includes Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. Arkansas hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 2010, but the party believes it has a chance to unseat the two-term GOP congressman. Hill said the decision on Arkansas' statues is up to the Legislature.
"Selecting statues for the U.S. Capitol is up the state legislature in each state," Hill said in a statement. "Arkansas has two prominent turn of the 20th century men representing the state in the US Capitol. Any decision on a change is up to the legislature."
Tucker wrote he hoped one of the new statues would represent one of the nine students who desegregated Little Rock's Central High School in 1957 or civil-rights leader Daisy Bates, who mentored the students.
Republican state Sen. Bart Hester, who has said he'll push for the statues' replacement in next year's session, questioned the timing of Tucker supporting the move but said it's the right thing to do.
"We've honored these guys for 100 years, and we're going to find someone else we can honor who is certainly worthy of the position as well," Hester said.