Replace Jefferson Davis statue with Muhammad Ali says former KY Treasurer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Muhammad Ali is probably the most famous Kentuckian since Abraham Lincoln. Now there's a controversial new effort to have Ali's image on display alongside Lincoln at the State Capitol.
The Capitol Rotunda showcases some of the most iconic figures in Kentucky history. Former state Treasurer Jonathan Miller says the man known as The Greatest should also have a place here.
They're immortalized in marble and bronze -- Abe Lincoln, surgeon Ephraim McDowell, U.S. Senators Henry Clay, Alben Barkley and, perhaps most controversial, Jefferson Davis.
"To me, having the Davis statue is insult to injury," said Miller. "It really is rubbing salt in an old wound."
It's the President of the Confederacy that Miller believes should be replaced by Muhammad Ali.
"He (Ali) has been the most influential person out of Kentucky in the 20th century," Miller said.
Miller has started an online petition which he plans to turn over to Kentucky's top elected officials.
But Miller knows he's wading into treacherous waters. Some have never forgiven Ali for refusing to fight in Vietnam and for converting to Islam.
"Ali was a controversial figure when he first started, but since then has really grown and is a great civil rights leader, and I think he should be honored," said Miller.
Miller says reaction has been mixed since he wrote about the idea in his blog on the Kentucky Sports Radio website.
The comments on the site range from "Totally agree and just wanted to say thanks" to "Shame on you. Replace one racist with another?"
"My favorite, of course, is I've been called a racist against whites. And my response was some of my best friends are white, including myself," said Miller.
Miller has since learned from the Ali family that Islamic law prohibits 3-dimensional representations of living Muslims.
So Miller has modified his petition. It now calls for a portrait, picture or mural.
"And I think it would be so great for our school children walking through that Capitol Rotunda to see his face there," he said.
You can read Miller's petition here.
UPDATE: At WDRB's request, the Finance and Administration Cabinet sent the following rules regarding the statues in the Capitol Rotunda adopted by the Historic Properties Advisory Commission:
"In order to protect the structural integrity of the Capitol building, the present selection and position of the monumental sculptures displayed in the Rotunda of the New State Capitol shall be maintained. Additional works of art will not be accepted for display in the Rotunda."
The last statue erected was Alben Barkley in 1968.
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