June 27, 2011

Idahoans Enrich Our Nation's Capitol

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

July 2 nd marks the 147 th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing into law legislation that invited each state to provide up to two marble or bronze statues of citizens "illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services such as each state may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration" to be placed in the Old Hall of the U.S. House of Representatives, which was designated as National Statuary Hall.  Idaho has given statues of two notable Idahoans-George Laird Shoup and William Edgar Borah-for such purposes.  These statues do not just decorate the Capitol.  They pay tribute to the service of these esteemed individuals and represent a mere tip of the iceberg of the many Idahoans who are part of our state and nation's deep history.

 

Prior to its designation as National Statuary Hall, the space served as the U.S. House of Representatives chamber for nearly 50 years.  In addition to serving as the primary display area for the National Statuary Hall collection, the hall is known for its fascinating acoustics, enabling listeners to hear conversations on the other side of the room.  A statue of George Laird Shoup-territorial governor, who helped establish the State of Idaho, and the first state governor-is part of the collection of statues in National Statuary Hall. 

 

George Shoup contributed to historic national events, including the settlement of the West and the Civil War.  He had a diverse background in agriculture, mining and mercantile.  A scout during the Civil War, he was commissioned colonel when the Third Colorado Cavalry was formed.  Among his many accomplishments, George Shoup helped found Salmon, Idaho and Lemhi County, and he was appointed governor of the Idaho Territory.  Following Idaho's admission to the Union, he served as Idaho's first governor.  He was later elected to the U.S. Senate from 1890 to 1901, where he served as Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on Territories. 

 

Originally, the statues gifted by the states were placed in National Statuary Hall.  However, due to overcrowding and structural constraints, legislation was later enacted providing for one statue from each state to be placed in Statuary Hall, with the other to be placed in prominent locations throughout the Capitol.  One hundred statues comprise the collection from the 50 states.  When the new Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), an extension of the U.S. Capitol, was completed, 24 statues were relocated from the Capitol to the CVC to make them more visible to visitors.      

 

Steps away from the statue of Laird Shoup, in the CVC, stands the statue of William Edgar Borah.  William Borah, known as an eloquent speaker, served in the U.S. Senate from 1907 to 1940.  Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Borah was an attorney in Boise, Idaho.  Throughout his Senate service, he served as chairman of five Senate committees, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Education and Labor.  Borah was Idaho's longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, and he was the first Idahoan to run for the nomination for Republican candidate for the President of the United States.  Idaho's Borah Peak is named after him. 

 

When walking through the halls of the Capitol, the statues of these valued Idahoans serve as reminders of Idaho's significant contribution to the history and strength of the U.S.  The two statues represent far more than two great individuals.  They prompt a reflection on the countless Idahoans instrumental in shaping our great state and nation.

 

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