A new push has started to get Harry S. Truman back in the U.S. Capitol. This time it would be as a statue, and the Show-Me State’s only president would likely remain there forever.
The effort is being led by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who met on Monday with the editorial board of The Star. The 5th Congressional District Democrat explained that all states have space for two statues in the Capital.
Missouri’s two guys now are Thomas Hart Benton, a former long-serving U.S. senator, and adviser to presidents, and Francis Blair, a Union Army general who also served in the U.S. House and Senate. “No one knows who he (Blair) is,” Cleaver said.
Cleaver said Blair played an important role in keeping Missouri out of the Confederacy, even breaking into the Union armory to move weapons to Illinois so the weaponry couldn’t be used against Union troops.
In addition to serving in the House and Senate, Blair was Horatio Seymour’s running mate on the Democratic ticket in the first presidential election to take place during Reconstruction. Civil War hero, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his running mate Schuyler Colfax trounced the Democrats in the electoral college.
Cleaver said statues of Blair and Benton have been in the Capitol since 1899, but Truman deserves that spot as the 33rd and only president from Missouri. Truman was president during and at the end of World War II.
When Truman, who also had been a U.S. senator, left Washington he returned to his hometown, Independence. This area has a special attachment to all things Truman.
Nixon’s letter dated June 30, 2009, and addressed to Stephen T. Ayers, then-acting architect of the Capitol, notes that efforts to get Truman in and Blair relocated date back to the Missouri legislature in 2002 unanimously passing a resolution authorizing the switch.
California in 2009 got a statue of President Ronald Reagan placed in the National Statuary Hall. Cleaver said that should make Truman a shoo-in.
Cleaver shared letters from Gov. Jay Nixon and others required for the exchange to take place. All that’s needed now is $300,000 to hire a sculptor to make the statue and put it in Washington, D.C., where it belongs.
Cleaver said he planned to go on a state fundraising tour to appeal to major philanthropists and others for half of the money that’s needed. The other half would come from the Missouri legislature.
“We ought to have our only president in Statuary Hall in a prominent place,” Cleaver said. He said he would like to have the statue done and in the Capitol by this time next year.
For Truman, it certainly seems possible and would give Missourians another good reason to visit Washinton.