Washington State’s delegation in the National Statuary Hall hasn’t been updated since 1980, when the bronze casting of Sister of Providence nun Mother Joseph was shipped east. I think Washington should recall her, or missionary Marcus Whitman, and send back Gordon Hirabayashi, the courageous resister of Japanese-American internment in World War II.
Hirabayashi was among the interesting responses to my suggestion that we “hit refresh” on the state’s statues in the Capitol Statuary Hall collection, which honors two deceased icons from each state.
Whitman and Mother Joseph have their fans. Sister Judith Desmarais, of the Sisters of Providence’s Mother Joseph province, defends Mother Joseph as a pioneering architect who built 30 schools and institutions.
But others liked the idea of a fresh contingent. Responses linked — probably for the first time ever — Kurt Cobain and Bing Crosby as worthy candidates. Reader Ken Bertrand of Seattle said he suggested
Crosby back in 1980, and hits refresh on it now.
Don Denning of DuPont suggests Edward R. Murrow, the legendary CBS anchor, who went to Edison High School and graduated from Washington State University. We’ll have to forget that Murrow claimed instead to have graduated from Stanford, to buff his resume.
William Boeing, whom I suggested, was echoed by Gerry Gilbert of Kent:
William Boeing should stand in the Hall for Washington state. Boeing created the modern aerospace industry that has joined the world together.
Walter Brattain is a more obscure suggestion, but interesting. Brattain is credited as co-inventor of the transistor, which earned him the 1956 Nobel Prize for physics. Brattain grew up in the Okanogan, graduated from Whitman College and retired to Seattle, where he died in 1987.
Alfred MacRae of Seattle, who said he worked with Brattain at the Bell Telephone lab, describes the transistor as “the most important invention of the 20th century from an economic and social standpoint,” which lives on in electronics from the car to the smartphone.
It would be an underestimate to evaluate all the electronics made possible in the world every year by the invention of the transistor to be many trillions of dollars. … I well remember Walter saying that his transistor would enable even the poorest person in backward countries of the world to have a transistorized radio that would enable that person to learn about the standard of living in advanced countries, and that person would then aspire to attain the benefits of the people in the advanced countries. — How prophetic.
Hirabayashi was suggested by reader Matt McCally of Renton and University of Washington sociology Professor Tetsu Kashima. (I talked with Kashima in 2003 for an obituary on Kenji Ito, another Japanese-American leader caught up in World War zenophobia.)
In 1942, Hirabayashi, a University of Washington senior, defied an order to report to Japanese-American internment camp. “I felt if I gave in because of the pressures I would lose my own self-respect,” Hirabayashi said in a Seattle Times story in 2000. After internment, he went on to a notable career as a sociologist.
As Kashima writes:
He was initially castigated for his courageous stand to defend the Constitution of the United States for refusing to obey two government orders: a curfew edict and failure to report for detention. Found guilty on both counts, he served his sentence, and 40 years later had his second “day in court.” Through a Writ of Error Corum Nobis, his two guilty verdicts were vacated (in 1987) and President Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
That the Medal of Freedom citation, the nation’s highest civil honor, reads: “Gordon Hirabayashi’s legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals. And his example will forever call on us to defend the liberty of all our citizens.”