Dolly Parton petition
Dolly Parton arrives at MusiCares Person of the Year in her honor on Friday, Feb. 8, 2018, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Dolly Parton Shuts Down Push For Statue in Her Likeness at the Tennessee State Capitol

Tennessee state Representative John Mark Windle, a Democrat representing Fentress, Morgan and Overton counties, introduced a bill on Jan. 12 that would add a statue of Dolly Parton to the Capitol grounds in Nashville. On Feb. 18, Parton shared on social media that she'd asked Windle and other supporters to stop backing the bill.

"I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of a bill to erect statue of me on the Capitol grounds," she wrote. "I am honored and humbled by their intention but I have asked the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill from any and all consideration.

"Given all that is going on in the world, I don't think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time," she continued. "I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I'm gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I'm certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennesseean."

The proposed Parton statue would've faced in the direction of the Ryman Auditorium, the historic home of the Grand Ole Opry.

It's not the first push in recent months to immortalize Parton with a statue. Wide Open Country reported on June 15, 2020 that a popular petition to replace statues in Tennessee of Confederate officers and slave owners with the likeness of Parton had over 5,000 signatures. As of Jan. 13, 2021, the number of signatures has topped 25,000.

Alex Parsons started the petition, which challenges Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee House and Senate to remove contentious statues.

"While the idea of replacing all of those monuments with Dolly Parton may seem funny, the history of those monuments is anything but," Parson wrote in a June 14 update to the campaign.

Even if Parsons and his supporters do not realistically expect statues of Parton to replace every single Confederate monument, the country legend's role in this is to represent a "true Tennessee hero" who "has worked her entire life to bring us closer together."

"Aside from her beautiful music, which has touched the hearts and lives of millions of Americans, Dolly Parton's philanthropic heart has unquestionably changed the world for the better," reads the campaign's description. "From the Dollywood foundation that has provided books and scholarships to millions of American children, to the millions of dollars she has donated to dozens of organizations such as the Red Cross and COVID-19 research centers, Dolly Parton has given more to this country and this state than those confederate officers could ever have hoped to take away."

Dr. Charles Hughes, a professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, offers a different view on which historic figures best deserve commemoration.

"Nothing at all against Parton, but replacing bad white people with better white people is a half-measure at best," he wrote in a June 14 Tweet. "There is no better moment to honor the legacies of Black Tennesseans, specifically, and anything else feels like a dodge."

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At least one Republican Representative in Tennessee was open to having more than just statues of men at his place of work.

"My daughter is 16, and I would love for her to come into the Capitol and see a lady up there," Rep. Jeremy Faison told the Tennessean. "What's wrong with Anne Dallas Dudley getting in that alcove?"

Dudley was a key player in the American suffragist movement.

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