CINCINNATI — For more than 100 years, Gov. William Allen and President James A. Garfield have represented Ohio in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol in Washington.
But Mr. Allen, it seems, held beliefs about race that are now embarrassing.
“He wasn’t pro-slavery, but he was not pro-civil rights,” said Tom Reider, research archivist for the Ohio Historical Society. “He did not favor extending suffrage to African-American males through the 15th Amendment.”
So the state has begun looking for an Ohioan to replace him, and there is no shortage of nominees. They include three presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley and William Howard Taft; the Olympic athlete Jesse Owens; and William Ellsworth Hoy, a deaf baseball player at the turn of the 20th century and a member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame who was known as Dummy.
Wilbur and Orville Wright have been ruled out, because the rules do not allow for two people to share a statue.
“We have a very tough decision in front of us,” said Mark Wagoner, a Republican state senator from Toledo and chairman of the State General Assembly committee charged with making the selection.
Ohio is not alone in deciding to swap out one of its two statues that each state contributes to the hall’s collection. Three states have done so since Congress authorized such changes in 2000.
Kansas and California have selected former presidents — Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, respectively — and Alabama recently placed Helen Keller’s statue in the collection. Three more have notified the Architect of the Capitol, who maintains the collection, of their intent: Michigan and Missouri want to include their respective native-son presidents, Gerald R. Ford and Harry S. Truman, while Arizona wants Senator Barry Goldwater.
But Ohio is different in having no specific replacement in mind.
“We’re trying to have fun with it, and really make it a celebration of Ohio history,” Mr. Wagoner said. “We’re trying to raise Ohioans’ interest in our rich history and make this a positive experience for people.”
“It was President Kennedy who said there’s high honor in the political class, and public servants ought to have their own hall of fame,” said State Representative Tyrone K. Yates, Democrat of Cincinnati and a committee member. “That should be Statuary Hall. Otherwise it would be full of inventors, businessmen and others.”
While the names of many famous Ohioans have been mentioned, the obscure have also gotten attention. Last month, in Washington Court House, a city in the southeast part of the state, students in Paul LaRue’s high school history classes tried to persuade the committee to back James M. Ashley. Little known today, he was a Civil War-era congressman from Toledo and a Lincoln ally who championed and helped write the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery.
“We have no claim on him as favorite son,” Mr. LaRue said. “We call him an architect of freedom because he did a lot, and we feel he would be a good replacement for Governor Allen.”
Mr. Wagoner said his committee would make a recommendation in the spring, followed by a vote by the General Assembly.
The selection requires the approval of the governor and the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in Washington. It is then up to Ohio to make the arrangements; a nonprofit foundation has been established to raise the estimated $250,000 to $500,000 needed for a new statue.