Ten years following Oklahoma's statehood on June 6, 1917 and then 22 years later to the day on June 6, 1939, the State of Oklahoma completed its presentation of two statues to America.

The 1917 statue in tribute to The Cherokee Cadmus-Sequoyah. The 1939 statue to honor The Cherokee Kid and America’s Ambassador of Goodwill- Will Rogers.

The concept of a National Statuary Hall area of the U.S. Capitol originated in the middle 19th century, even before the completion of the present House wing in 1857. At that time, the House of Representatives moved into its new larger chamber and the old vacant chamber became a thoroughfare between the Rotunda and the House wing.

Suggestions for the use of the chamber were made as early as 1853 for its use as a gallery of historical paintings. The space between the columns seemed too limited for this purpose, but it was well suited for the display of busts and statuary. On April 19, 1864, Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont asked: "To what end more useful or grand, and at the same time simple and inexpensive, can we devote it [the Chamber] than to ordain that it shall be set apart for the reception of such statuary as each State shall elect to be deserving of in this lasting commemoration?"

The proposal to create a National Statuary Hall became law on July 2, 1864 It provides that the President is hereby authorized to invite each and all the States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and 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; and when so furnished the same shall be placed in the Old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a national statuary hall for the purpose herein indicated. The first statue was placed in 1870. By 1971 all 50 states had contributed at least one statue, and by 1990 all but five states had contributed two statues.

At the June 1917 Sequoyah statue presentation ceremony Oklahoma Representative Ferris’ remarks seem to best represent Oklahoma’s first entry into the National Hall of Fame, “ Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian in whose honor we are this day installing this statue, was born in 1760; died in 1843; born in Tennessee; resident of territory now comprising Oklahoma during the last 20 years of his life; died in Old Mexico; born 16 years before the Republic of the United States was born; inventor of Cherokee alphabet; foremost American Indian; died 64 years before Oklahoma was admitted into the Union.

Oklahoma this day installs in Statuary Hall of America’s Capitol the first statue of an American Indian to be given a place here. How proud it makes me feel, how proud it must make the 2,000,000 citizens of the bright, new State of Oklahoma feel, to know that they were the first to give belated, tardy recognition to the American Indian.”

The chairman of the Sequoyah presentation was McAlester resident and Oklahoma Congressional District 2 Congressman C.D. Carter. The Sequoyah statue was presented not by then Oklahoma Governor R.L. Williams but by then Oklahoma U.S. Senator Robert L. Owen. In his remarks Senator Owen shared that the statue artist was a woman greatly beloved in Oklahoma, Mrs. Vinnie Ream Hoxie, the wife of Gen. Richard Leverage Hoxie of Washington City.

Vinnie Reams people were closely identified with Oklahoma through Robert Ream, her brother, who lived in eastern Oklahoma, near McAlester. {The area just north of McAlester-Bugtussle and a little north was at one time known as Ream’s Prairie.} Mrs. Hoxie’s first important commission was for a full-length statue of Abraham Lincoln, now also in the Rotunda of the Capitol. She had the opportunity to make sketches of President Lincoln from his life and was freely admitted to the White House for this purpose. Mrs. Hoxie is also the artist for a bronze statue of Governor Kirkwood presented by the State of Iowa for Statuary Hall.

The June 1939 Will Rogers statue presentation followed only four years after Rogers untimely death along with near Point Barrow, Alaska while on a trip around the world with Wiley Post.

Then-Governor Leon Phillips was on hand in Washington D.C. for this presentation and shared the following, “His is the last statue that will grace this noble Hall, and this great and final recognition is indeed appropriate and fitting, for Will Rogers was the archetype of the American people, the plain and kindly spokesman of the inarticulate. ‘I never met a man I didn’t like’ he said. What a testament to his simplicity and his insight into the tangled skein of man’s behavior! Understanding men, he loved them and they loved him.”

Will Rogers older sister Mrs. Sally McSpadden was on hand to unveil the statue and native Oklahoman Joseph Benton, a member of the Metropolitan Grand Opera Co. sung two numbers. The Will Rogers statue was sculpted by Jo Davidson with sculptures and other artistic works to be found throughout the work from military leaders to politicians and all other walks of life. Mr. Davidson is also represented in the Statuary Hall by the statue of Robert Marion La Follette, of Wisconsin.

A tribute was also delivered by then Oklahoma Congressional District 2 Representative Wilburn Cartwright of McAlester, who had replaced Congressman C.D. Carter who had made remarks twenty-two years earlier at the Sequoya presentation.

Congressman Cartwright shared, “When I became a Member of Congress in 1927, I was surprised one day when Will Rogers called on me.  He said, ‘I wanted to see the color of the man’s hair that could beat my old friend Charley Carter. You know us Indians have got to stick together.’ He was very proud of his Indian blood, and my predecessor, Hon. Charles D. Carter, was five-eighth degree. I had never met Will personally, though his picture hung on the wall at the Masonic lodge room where we were both members at McAlester, Oklahoma. I had read most everything that he had written, and I had heard so much by word of mouth from his old friends and associates I felt that I knew him. After our first meeting I knew that I knew him.”

With the addition of New Mexico's second statue in 2005, the collection is now complete with 100 statues contributed by 50 states, plus one from the District of Columbia, and one for all the states, a statue of Rosa Parks. Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio have each replaced one of their first two statues after Congress authorized replacements in 2000. And there are several states with pending changes not to include Oklahoma.

The invocation delivered at the Sequoyah statue presentation in Statuary Hall on June 6, 1917 by the Rev. Henry N. Couden, Chaplain of the House of Representatives included these words that seem to be aptly relevant to both of the great Oklahomans standing in Statuary Hall and to the current times we live and the discussions underway concerning monuments and historical figures, “We thank Thee for the life, character, and work of the man whose statue we are here to unveil in this hall among the great men of our Nation; that it may stand as a memorial to his wonderful achievements and an inspiration to those who shall look upon it to copy his virtues and sacrifices for mankind.”

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