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State lawmakers could return Humphrey to Washington with statue swap

Minnesota could be getting new representation in Washington D.C.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls), HF5156, as amended, would appropriate $300,000 from the General Fund to replace a statue of Henry Mower Rice ­— one of two figures representing Minnesota in the capitol’s Statuary Hall collection — with one of Hubert H. Humphrey. The bill was heard Monday by the House Capital Investment Committee, which took no action on it.

The money would be used to duplicate the statue of Humphrey which stands on the State Capitol Mall in St. Paul and transport it to the U.S. Capitol where it would stand with Helen Keller, Will Rogers, Robert Fulton, Samuel Adams and Ronald Reagan.

The statue of Rice would be returned to Minnesota, perhaps to the Minnesota Historical Society, where Rice was once a board member.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial on the Capitol grounds pictured April 8. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

Rice was an early state leader, but Long said it is important to reflect the history that has transpired since his statue was erected in 1916. Minnesotans accomplished much on the national stage in the subsequent 100-plus years, and none have impacted the nation as much as Humphrey, a U.S. senator, vice president and champion of civil rights.

Among the bill’s supporters is Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), a retired government teacher.

“I think it is more fitting at this time in 2024 we have someone in Washington who has stature of the last century behind them,” he said.

A fur trader and land speculator, Rice was prominent in Minnesota’s drive for statehood. In 1858 he was elected one of the state’s first two senators.

Humphrey was a towering figure of 20th century politics, and the great cause of his life was civil rights, said James Traub, author of “True Believer: Hubert Humphrey’s Quest for a More Just America.”

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948, Humphrey served almost continuously until his death in 1978. He was Lyndon Johnson’s vice president from 1965 to 1969. 

Authorized in 1864, the Statuary Hall collection allows each state to provide statues of two prominent citizens, which typically includes one civic leader and one political leader. Each statue is a gift from the state, which must pay for the sculpture, pedestal and transportation.

Per federal law enacted in 2000, states may replace a statue after it has been displayed for at least 10 years with approval of its legislature and governor. 

Minnesota’s other statue depicts educational pioneer Maria Sanford, a University of Minnesota professor from 1880 to 1909. Her statue was placed in 1958 and stands in the U.S. Capitol visitor center.

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