In 2019, the Man in Black headed to the U.S. Capitol. Statues of Johnny Cash and Civil Rights leader Daisy Bates were sent to Capitol Hill to represent the state of Arkansas in a display in Washington, D.C.
Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed the bill to replace statues of 19th century attorney Uriah Rose and former Arkansas Gov. and Sen. James P. Clarke with those of Cash and Bates. Hutchinson said the statues of Cash and Bates, two of the state's most respected figures, will help tell the story of the state of Arkansas.
"This is an extraordinary moment recognizing the contributions of two incredible Arkansans," Hutchinson said. "We want our memories, through our statues, to tell the story of Arkansas. I believe our story is well represented by these two historic figures."
The statue of former senator James P. Clarke, who sided with the Confederacy, reportedly held segregationist views.
Clarke's great-great grandson, Clarke Tucker, was among those who called for the removal of the statue and condemned his great-great-grandfather's 1894 speech, in which James P. Clarke said "the people of the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve the white standards of civilization."
"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 in 2018. "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."
Friends and families of both Cash and Bates were present during the signing.
Daisy Bates was an American civil rights activist, speaker and journalist who served as a mentor to the nine black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
Cash was raised in Dyess, Arkansas from the age of three throughout his high school years. The country icon always maintained that his upbringing in the small rural town helped shape the rest of his life and remained a bedrock of inspiration for him.
Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash, was present when the bill was signed into law. Rosanne Cash said it's particularly special that her father will share the honor with Bates.
"We're especially honored that a statue of my dad has been chosen to represent Arkansas in our nation's Capitol. I'm just... it's such a thrill. This has been made even more special by the fact that he will be sharing this honor with Daisy Bates," Rosanne Cash said during a Thursday (April 11) ceremony. "I have so much respect for her. She was a true humanitarian. Her commitment to social justice, to civil rights is unparalleled and really an inspiration."
Last year, Cash's boyhood home in Dress was named a historic place.
Update, June 23, 2020:
In recent weeks, the conversation around removing monuments and statues of members of the Confederacy has been reignited. In June, a popular Change.org petition to replace statues in Tennessee of Confederate officers and slave owners with the likeness of Dolly Parton gatheredover 20,000 signatures.
Taylor Swift, a resident of Tennessee, also called for the removal of Tennessee statues of slave owners and members of the Confederacy, such as Edward Carmack and Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Forrest statue sits on private property in Nashville, while the Carmack statue was on the State Capitol grounds. The statue of Carmack was torn down during a June protest.
"As a Tennessean, it makes me sick that there are monuments standing in our state that celebrate racist historical figures who did evil things," Swift wrote. "Edward Carmack and Nathan Bedford Forrest were DESPICABLE figures in our state history and should be treated as such."
This article was originally published in 2019. It was updated on June 23, 2020.