Sunday, May 21, 2000

Rhodes entitled to another term at Statehouse

Memorial stays across street despite law

By Michael Hawthorne
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        State law says James A. Rhodes should be back at the Statehouse. The 90-year-old former governor isn't about to attempt another political comeback. However, Section 149.30 of the Ohio Revised Code ordains that a statue honoring Mr. Rhodes should stand on the northeast quadrant of the Statehouse grounds.

        Folks in charge of the historic building moved the statue in the early 1990s while they renovated the halls of state government. The statue has been across the street in front of the Rhodes State Office Building (yes, the same Rhodes) ever since.

        “I kind of like it over there,” said Senate President Richard Finan, an Evendale Republican who oversaw the Statehouse spruce-up. “It looks like he's walking to work.”

        Ron Keller, director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, confirmed there are no plans to comply with state law and move the statue back. “Not at this time,” Mr. Keller said.

        Memorials to people still living are common these days, but the Rhodes statue provides an interesting footnote in Ohio's political history.

        In 1981, the former governor's last year in office, some of Mr. Rhodes' pals in the General Assembly slipped an amendment authorizing the statue's casting into a prison construction bill. It depicts Mr. Rhodes in midstride holding a briefcase emblazoned with the Great Seal of Ohio.

        A group of Mr. Rhodes' financial backers fronted the $67,000 needed for the project. The select group included Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner, Wendy's founder Dave Thomas and John W. Berry of Dayton-based L.M. Berry Co.

        Others weren't too keen about the idea.

        A file on the statue kept by the Ohio Historical Society includes a handful of letters from society members vowing to cancel their memberships. Some cited Mr. Rhodes' order to send the National Guard to quell protests against the Vietnam War at Kent State University.

        Guardsmen killed four students on May 4, 1970. Mr. Rhodes was cleared of any criminal charges by two grand juries.

        Rumors have cropped up from time to time that there is a secret tribute to the victims Neil Young immortalized as the “four dead in Ohio” inside the hollow bronze statue.

        “I would never verify if that's true,” said Ron Dewey, former owner of the Cleveland foundry that performed the casting.


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