A sculpture of the late former president George H.W. Bush that sits in Hampton University’s newly unveiled Legacy Park his causing a heated objection with at least one congressional lawmaker.
On Sunday, the historically Black university hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Hampton’s Founder’s Day to officially unveil Legacy Park, which was commissioned by the university’s trustees.
But Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis however said he plans to ask the Congressional Black Caucus to speak out against the sculpture of Bush. Bush has a statue along with civil rights figures Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. former President Barack Obama, as well as others.
Clay believes Bush’s history of resistance to civil rights makes him disqualified to be honored with a sculpture about greats like Parks, King and Obama.
“When you think about the legacy of President George H. W. Bush it is not one that you can hold up as someone who believed in equal justice for all,” Clay told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“It is a legacy that really damaged the African American community, and what I mean by that is his appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, to replace a giant like Thurgood Marshall,” he continued. “I think that was so insulting to the African American and to the country as a whole, because (Thomas) couldn’t hold a candle to Thurgood Marshall, as far as civil liberties, freedom, equal rights, equal justice. He’s contrary to all that.”
But Hampton University president Dr. William R. Harvey in December, defended the statue.
“I believe in giving people their credit when it is due.”
“President Bush was not only a good friend of mine, but he was an extraordinary person who believed it was crucial that African Americans have access to education,” Harvey said. “I think that’s something that we must acknowledge.”
In 1989, Harvey pointed out to the Philadelphia Tribune in a December interview, HBCUs received $776 million in federal funds. In 1990, they got $894 million. Bush was in office from 1989 to 1993. He also founded the United Negro College Fund chapter while a student at Yale University and eventually became Texas UNCF chairman.
However, the former president’s civil rights record still weighs heavily in the minds of others.
“I must remind you that President Bush’s record on civil rights was one of the worst in the history of U.S. Presidents,'” said William L. “Bill” Clay, a former congressman and Clay’s father. “For three decades in public service, he refused to come face-to-face with his paradoxical conflict of duplicity in matters of race. He steadfastly and vigorously opposed any specific proposal to ameliorate the inequitable, bigoted treatment of black citizens.”