The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume I, Number 1, Pages 2-3
Winter, 1976

The Statuary Hall Project

In the national capitol there is a large room known as "Statuary Hall," that commemorates leading figures from each of the fifty states. The Hall was established by an act of congress in 1864 stipulating that each state legislature could choose two people to be recognized in the capitol building. Since the act was passed, 93 men and women have been so honored. Some of them, Samuel Adams and George Washington among others, are legendary national figures. Others, like Marcus Whitman, are people of great local importance. Most of the states have filled their quota, but seven states, including Washington, have thus far chosen only one figure.

Certainly it would be appropriate for Washington to choose a second person to join Marcus Whitman in Statuary Hall, but how should the state go about making a choice? In some places a single figure has stood out as an obvious candidate. Such was the case in Virginia, where George Washington was selected. But in most states there are many men and women who are equally deserving of recognition. Such is the situation in Washington.

In order to help the people of Washington choose a nominee for Statuary Hall during the Bicentennial year, The Pacific Northwest Forum will publish and release to newspapers biographical sketches of men and women who have influenced Washington State history. The initial subjects for sketches have been chosen by a Statuary Hall editorial board consisting of George Frykman of Washington State University, Lawrence Lowther of Central Washington State College, David Nicandri of the State Capital Museum, Nancy Pryor of Washington State Library, and J. William T. Youngs, Jr., editor of the Forum. The sketches we intend to publish in the near future include those of George Bush, Edward R. Murrow, Mother Joseph, and Isaac Stevens.

In the months ahead we will encourage widespread participation in the nomination procedure. If there is sufficient interest in the project, we will develop a procedure in the Fall of 1976 to choose three final candidates whose sketches will be represented in newspapers to facilitate a state-wide election of a single nominee to place before the legislature.

Whatever final nomination procedures may emerge, we hope that these biographical sketches will contribute to the selection process by providing information to the general public on a wide range of possible candidates. Naturally we cannot actually choose Washington's second figure ourselves - the final decision must be made by the legislature. But we do anticipate that the process which we have initiated will "be one of the most informative and democratic ever undertaken in selecting a subject for Statuary Hall. Through this approach Washingtonians will not only select a candidate for Statuary Hall, but will also become more familiar with many men and women who have contributed to the state's history. In the long run this process may itself be more important than the actual determination of a single "hero" or "heroine."