Arkansas Monuments Statement From Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston

In recent years and in recent times, we as a nation and a state have looked inward to ourselves and to values that we hold dear. This concept of reflection is not new to us as Arkansans or Americans. Our country and state have erected many monuments throughout history to memorialize a person, place, event, or sacrifice made.

Our State’s Capitol was constructed during the years of 1899 to 1915. The first monument placed on State Capitol grounds, a memorial to confederate soldiers, was done so in 1905. Among the many monuments found on Capitol Grounds, is a smaller, less notable monument honoring all soldiers of the Civil War imprisoned in the State Prison that was once located on Capitol Grounds. As Secretary of State, I am honored to have overseen the installation of our most recent memorial, the Gold Star Memorial, that was complete in 2019 and dedicated to the families of those that have lost loved ones in war.

Act 274 of the 2017 legislative session requires the Arkansas Legislature to authorize construction or removal of a monument on State Capitol grounds. As Secretary of State and Chairman of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission, my office works with the Arkansas Legislature to ensure their statutes and mandates of installation, maintenance, and removal are implemented in regards to the monuments on State Capitol grounds and in the Statutory Hall of the United States Capitol. Currently, I am working with various stakeholders at the direction of the Arkansas Legislature to oversee the removal and replacement of two statues currently located in the Statutory Hall with statues honoring Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash.

In recent weeks, many monuments across our nation have been removed through both lawful and unlawful processes.  The scope of my office in regards to Capitol monuments is defined by law and by the direction of the Arkansas Legislature. I encourage Arkansans to visit with their respective legislative members on those issues that are important to them as it relates to the monuments on Capitol grounds and I encourage those seeking change to do so in a lawful manner.