Robert Kirby: If not a Brigham Young statue in the U.S. Capitol, whom should Utah pick?

Robert Kirby

The history of the United States is under fire because of racial protests. It’s not so much our history itself but rather the way we choose to honor it.

For example, statues of Confederate leaders are being pulled down or defaced, and people are demanding that military bases named after Confederate generals be renamed.

The latest statue to come under scrutiny is one of Abraham Lincoln in Boston. It features Honest Abe standing over a black man whose chains of slavery are broken but who is still on his knees before a white man. Yes, the statue is of a slave being freed, but why is he still on his knees? Why isn’t he standing shoulder to shoulder with the Great Emancipator?

Meanwhile, in Boston’s north end, a statue of Christopher Columbus had its head pulled off.

Closer to home is Mormon pioneer-prophet Brigham Young, who, in addition to being hailed in history as the American Moses and second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a racist.

A marble statue of Brother Brigham sits in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The question is: Should it remain there?

Each state is allowed to have two statues representing someone of historical significance. Utah has Young and, for now, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, known as the “father of television.”

Farnsworth is due to be replaced — after a 2018 vote by the Utah Legislature — by Martha “Mattie” Hughes Cannon, who, in 1896, became the nation’s first elected female state senator. Side note: In a further blow for women’s suffrage, Cannon even defeated her own husband Angus, for the office.

If we’re going to replace Farnsworth — who helped invent a device that would rot the minds of future generations — isn’t it time to replace Young as well?

Keep in mind, this isn’t a decision to be determined from on high in the church but rather by the people. Yeah, I know, in Utah that is often the same thing. But just suppose Young were to be replaced in the National Statuary Hall. Whom would you want to be honored in his stead?

I’m going with Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as “Butch Cassidy.” Butch is a legendary figure in Utah history. He robbed banks and trains, was well known for giving away much of his money, and never killed anyone (that we know of).

My second choice would be John Moses Browning, who in fact did help kill people (a lot of them) by inventing numerous firearms, my personal favorite being the M1918A2 .30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).

Whom would you pick? Keep in mind the honoree should be both somewhat famous and dead. Possible considerations are:

Lawrence Gene Fullmer • Famed boxer/face puncher. Former world middleweight champion. A West Jordan recreation center is named for him.

Daniel C. Jackling • American mining engineer who pioneered porphyry copper mining in Bingham Canyon, resulting in a hole near my house that can be seen from space. Died in 1956.

Richard E. Marsh, aka Sky Saxon. Rock ’n’ roll musician, best known as the leader and singer of the 1960s Los Angeles psychedelic garage rock band the Seeds. Born in Utah. Died 2009.

Merlin Jay Olsen • Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, actor on “Little House on the Prairie” and “Father Murphy” television series. Born in Logan. Died in 2010.

These are just a few candidates. You probably have some worth considering. Let’s pick one and have him or her ready just in case.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.

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