Bits of Bama on Capitol Hill


Alabamians have been fixtures for decades on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Celebrated senators and congressmen—Carl Elliott, Bob Jones, Lister Hill, John Sparkman, Howell Heflin and others—have helped shape national policy and profoundly influenced American history in the 20th century. In a recent visit to Washington, however, I discovered two new additions to Capitol Hill, neither of which is a member of Congress.

In the expansive new Capitol visitor center, the newest state statue is that of Helen Keller, who has replaced the more obscure Jabez Curry as Alabama’s official statue. She is depicted in the moment she reaches out to touch the water from the well at her Tuscumbia home, Ivy Green.

Much smaller than the monumental figures around her, Keller’s bronze statue is both lively in form and human in scale. Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama Council on the Arts and many other individuals and groups are to be commended for choosing Keller and her wonderful statue. I suspect that when other states decide to replace their own lesser-known (and stiff) statues, such as Mississippi’s James Zachariah George or Oregon’s John McLoughlin, they will look to the image of our own Helen Keller for guidance.

A few blocks east of the Capitol, behind the Library of Congress, stands the Folger Shakespeare Library. In this quiet and scholarly museum and archives, visitors can escape the tourist hubbub found in the Smithsonian’s museums on the Mall. While there I enjoyed the intriguing exhibition,”Extending the Book: The Art of Extra-Illustration.”

Unfortunately, I was unable to visit Alabama’s own unique contribution to the Folger—a television studio. As I am writing this, Alabama Public Television is constructing a studio in the Folger’s Haskell Educational Building. (The building is named for Birmingham’s Wyatt Haskell, who serves on the Folger board as well as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival board.) Soon APT will be producing from Washington both public affairs programs related to Alabama’s Congressional delegation and educational programs for Alabama English teachers using the vast resources of the Folger.

Congratulations to all our colleagues, partners and friends for expanding the state’s presence in the nation’s capital—in ways far beyond government and politics!

Written by: Bob S.