House Votes to Remove Taney Bust From U.S. Capitol, Replace It With Thurgood Marshall

    The U.S. House voted Wednesday evening to remove the bust of the late Supreme Court chief justice Roger B. Taney from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a bust of the first African-American who served on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall.

    Both Taney and Marshall were Marylanders.

    The vote was 305-113.

    Seventy-two Republicans joined 223 Democrats who voted for the measure, which was sponsored by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). All 113 no votes came from Republicans — include Maryland’s lone GOP member of Congress, Rep. Andrew P. Harris.

    Harris previously said he was in favor of erecting a tribute to Marshall in the Capitol but felt it was wrong to erase all evidence of the nation’s troubled history. Taney was the author of the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which denied citizenship to all Black Americans, whether they were free or enslaved.

    “I do not support denying history by removing Chief Justice Taney’s bust — but instead using its presence as a teaching moment by adding Justice Marshall’s bust, along with a plaque about how flawed the Dred Scott decision was ultimately found to be — the proof being the appointment of Thurgood Marshall,” Harris said in a statement earlier this month.

    Officially, Hoyer’s legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.), orders the Taney bust removed from its place in front of the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol and replaced by a Marshall bust. It also would no longer allows states to display statues in the Capitol of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederacy during the Civil War. And it would remove statues of individuals who expressed sentiments of white supremacy through history.

    On the House floor, Hoyer said supporting the legislation would be “a profound statement of practicing our founding ideals and the perfecting of our union.”

    “Thurgood Marshall is the face of our Maryland in 2020,” Hoyer added, “not Roger Taney.”

    The veteran congressman also said Americans are looking to Congress for important symbolic gestures.

    “I believe that most Americans are deeply distressed by racial injustice and want to see the progress of the Civil Rights Movement continue,” he said. “They want our nation and our democracy to grow, mature, and become more perfect. Part of that process is making it clear, through our symbols and public displays of honor, what our country stands for and, as importantly, what it must never stand for again.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.