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Gerald Ford back at U.S. Capitol

by Candice Miller on March 15, 2011

Statue of Michigan’s only president to replace one of 1800s politician in Statuary Hall
The Detroit News
Washington— Former U-M football star and President Gerald R. Ford will bump aside 19th-century Michigan politician Zachariah Chandler for a spot in the Statuary Hall lineup on Capitol Hill.
A bronze likeness of the only Commander in Chief from Michigan, who died in 2006, will be unveiled in May.
By a 396-0 vote, the U.S. House agreed to add the statue of the 38th president to Congress’s official collection.
Only two statues from each state can be displayed in the hall, so Chandler is expected to find a new home in the Detroit Historical Museum in Midtown.
Chandler was a prominent Michigan politician in the 1800s who helped found the Republican Party and served as mayor of Detroit, a U.S. senator from Michigan and Secretary of the Interior. Chandler is the namesake of Detroit’s Chandler Park; The Detroit News building downtown is on the site of Chandler’s former home.
The other Michiganian immortalized in Statuary Hall is Lewis Cass. Cass served as Michigan’s second governor, was a U.S. senator, Secretary of War, Secretary of State and Ambassador to France. Cass Tech High School and Cass Avenue in Detroit are named after him, as well as a number of other buildings and locations throughout the state.
Floor debate Monday on the House’s concurrent resolution that officially accepts the gift brought a cascade of praise for the late president from Michigan’s delegation in the lower chamber.
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who co-sponsored legislation supporting the statue’s commission when he served in the statehouse in Lansing, called the bill “a special opportunity” to revere Ford, the only U.S. president who was never elected. Huizenga represents part of the district that sent Ford to Congress in 1948.
Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, recalled meeting Ford at a dedication of his boyhood home in Grand Rapids as a historic marker when she was serving as Secretary of State. “He was a true American success story,” Miller said.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, called the legislation, which was co-sponsored by all 15 Michigan U.S. House members, “a fitting tribute to the bipartisanship … of President Ford.”
Michigan lawmakers have awaited Congressional action on the Ford statue since 2007, when former Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, proposed a resolution to request the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the placement of a statue of Ford in the U.S. Capitol. A similar resolution was sponsored by Sen. Bill Haridman, R-Kentwood, the same year. Both resolutions passed with bi-partisan support.
But, lawmakers at the time did not foresee Congress would debate the issue in 2011, according to Sak.
“We had hoped that it would be completed within a two-year time frame, however, sometimes the wheels of politics move a little slower than anticipated,” he added. “But we’re patient.”
The Gerald R. Ford Foundation is covering the statue’s costs, which haven’t been released. In 2008, the foundation commissioned sculptor and Grand Rapids native J. Brett Grill, now an art professor at the University of Missouri, to complete the statue. Grill couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
The Ford family is expected to be on hand for the statue’s unveiling May 3.
The Statuary Hall collection on Capitol Hill was established by law in 1864, providing each state space to commemorate two figures with statues. In 2000, Congress passed a law allowing states to swap out their statues for more modern memorials.
Michigan is the fourth state to initiate a swap, said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol’s office, which oversees and cares for the collection; Kansas, Alabama and California have made switches.
Ford won’t be the only Michiganian being added to the Statuary Hall collection in the coming months. Malecki said a likeness of Rosa Parks, the famed civil rights activist and Detroiter, is being fabricated and would be added after being formally accepted by Congress.
The Parks statue wouldn’t bump either of Michigan’s statues because it was ordered under special commission of Congress’ Joint Committee on the Library.

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