MR. EDISON IS GOING TO WASHINGTON

                                    
In the year 2000, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to allow states to replace existing statues in the National Statuary Hall if they so choose; however, they must adhere to guidelines.

 

Ohio’s National Statuary Collection Study Committee was appointed and tasked with finding a suitable replacement for Governor William Allen’s statue.  The nonpartisan committee was made up of three Senators and three Representatives.

 

“The Study Committee shall study and review the lives of citizens of this state who positively represent Ohio based on their talents, character, and contributions.  Not later than one year after the effective date of this act, the Study Committee shall prepare and submit a report to the General Assembly of its recommendation of an individual who should replace Governor William Allen as one of Ohio’s representatives in the National Statuary Collection in the United States Capitol.”                                                  S.B. 277, effective date 3/30/07

 

The Study Committee made visits to numerous sites in the summer of 2009.  They received written and oral testimony at January 2010 hearings in the State Capitol.  After several site visits, public hearings, and much deliberation, the Committee narrowed the field from more than 90 to 10 great Ohioans.

 

On Tuesday, February 23, 2010 the six members of the Study Committee ranked their choices in preference from 1 to 10.  Thomas Edison ranked number 1 in the final calculation.

 

At this time the Study Committee could have made their recommendation to the General Assembly, but they decided to seek the opinions of all Ohioans about who should represent our state in Statuary Hall.  A partnership was established with the Ohio Historical Society, Cincinnati Museum Center, Western Reserve Historical Society, and the Capitol Review and Advisory Board to provide “polling locations” to cover every region of the state.

 

“You may have to be 18 to vote in an election, but this is a process open to every Ohio resident with an interest in our shared history,” Senator Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills), who chairs the Statuary Committee, said.  “I have learned so much about the contributions of great men and women from Ohio through my work on the Statuary Committee and it is my hope that through this process more Ohioans, and especially our schoolchildren, will get out to our outstanding historical sites and ‘do their homework’ to learn more about the people who have shaped our history.  Their interest and participation will guarantee that we ultimately pick the right person.”

 

Vice Chairman, Representative Tom Letson, echoed the decision for public input.  “I am glad that we are opening up this debate to the public,” Rep. Letson said.  “The person chosen will represent all Ohioans at the U.S. Capitol, and therefore it is only fair that every Ohioan has the chance to weigh in on the decision.  I have had the honor of speaking with many citizens who are passionate about our state’s colorful history and I am grateful to be able to give them a chance to have their voices heard by a larger audience.”

 

An unbelievable amount of professional work went into the preparation for Ohioans to vote their choices from the ten nominees approved by the Study Committee.  An educational brochure and voting material package was distributed to 36 different voting locations across Ohio.  Materials were also made available to the general public and the media.  All information was available in hard print copy as well as on the official web site www.legacyforohio.org.  Media coverage of the statuary vote was extensive throughout Ohio.

 

A very comprehensive curriculum booklet with lesson plans for Ohio teachers covered the 10 nominees.  This material allowed Ohio schools to participate in learning about all ten of these great Ohioans.  Even podcasts were prepared to further the information available to students and the public via the computer.

 

During the official voting timeline, all ten candidates were represented in Columbus at the Ohio Historical Society.  This was yet another opportunity to exhibit the greatness of all the nominees.  It was also another great chance for families from all across the state to participate in this free educational event and vote for their choice.  Again, media coverage was extensive.

 

Not only were all the museum partners doing their special events, but the Statuary Study Committee members were all very involved as they scheduled their own “town meetings” or various press conferences to further educate and inform the public about the Statuary process and voting procedures.  The entire voting process was very exciting all over the state and certainly a lot of Ohio history was uncovered and reviewed.

 

Before and during the voting process, the Statuary Study Committee was very clear in emphasizing the vote of the people will be the single, greatest factor in determining the final selection of Ohio’s representative in Statuary Hall.  Considering this, after the votes were tallied, many if not most Ohioans, including the media, had Edison already in the Capitol.  But not so; back to the committee.

 

Todd Kleismit, Director of Government Relations for the Ohio Historical Society provided a very comprehensive report to the National Statuary Collection Study Committee at the conclusion of public voting.  In one paragraph of his report he writes, “At the outset of the process, I would have been very impressed with 25,000 votes.  As you know, we received almost double that -- 48,736 Ohio ballots were received.  More than 26,000 adult votes and over 22,500 student votes were received over the 85-day vote period from March to June.  That means, on an average day this spring, about 573 Ohioans were thinking about Ohio’s place in history and participating in the process to help determine ‘Who Should Stand For Ohio?’  Not because they had to, but because they were empowered to.”

 

When the final vote tally was certified by Ohio-based certified public accounting firm Rea & Associates, Thomas A. Edison was the top vote-getter.  The Wright Brothers came in second, followed by Jesse Owens and William M. McCulloch in the top 4 spots. 

On August 26, 2010 the full Statuary Committee met to vote its recommendation for Ohio’s representative to Statuary Hall.  After a full, extensive review of the entire process, the National Statuary Study Committee’s vote was unanimous to recommend Edison as Ohio’s replacement statue for Governor William Allen in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.  Again, there was a lot of press coverage and newspaper and TV announcements of Edison going to Washington.  Still not so; on to the Senate.

 

On February 1, 2011 Senator Mark Wagoner introduced S.B. 21 to send Edison to Statuary Hall.  The bill passed the Senate (32-0) on April 13, 2011.           

 

      In the final analysis, after Senator Wagoner’s Bill was stalled for more than a year in the Ohio House, he attached the Edison Statue bill to the State Budget Bill which passed both the Senate and House and was signed into law by Governor Kasich on June 11, 2012.

 

     A new statue of Thomas Alva Edison, of Milan, Ohio will now join the statue of President  James Garfield as representatives of Ohio in the U.S. Capitol’s National

Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.

 

     A major celebration is certainly in order for “Team Edison” supporters from all over Ohio.  This victory was about as difficult and persistent as Edison’s perfection of the incandescent lamp and storage battery.  Let there be no doubt, “The legacy of Edison is rooted deep in Buckeye Soil and now he will shine his presence in Washington D.C.  As my 8th grade grandson said, “He represents the Heart and Soul of Ohio.”    

 

     Yes, Edison will finally go to Washington but we have just confirmed phase one of his statue.  The next phase will be directed by the Ohio Statuary Hall Commission, a non-profit Ohio corporation.  Please know the following lines are strictly my own unofficial estimates but at this point everyone wants to know the cost and time lines.  I have heard the average cost of placing a statue in the capitol is anywhere from a half million to a million dollars.  The time for fund raising and statue work may be 2 years or more.  The cost of the statue will be 100% private funding.  I will keep you updated when I receive the formal introduction to phase two.  I just want to say thanks again to the Edison Team that made this happen, especially Senator Mark Wagoner.  We all need to pinch ourselves to know this is real!!!    


                                    Don Gfell, Vice President, Edison Birthplace Museum                                                      

                                                      Edison Statuary Committee Chairman