In recent years, statues of prominent Confederate figures have removed or torn down throughout the South. Many people feel that such statues celebrate and honor these figures during one of the darkest times of American history. As such, there are calls to replace these statues with other figures.
In Tennessee, there was a petition in 2020 to replace the statues of all Confederate figures with that of country singer Dolly Parton.
The petition stated that the Confederate statues were of men who wanted to tear the country apar. And while a Dolly Parton statue represents someone who has worked to bring the country together. This petition inspired a bill to install a Dolly Parton statue at the Tennessee State Capitol building.
However, Dolly Parton herself rejected the proposal for the statue to built. In fact, this wasn’t the first time she’s turned down an accolade celebrating her achievements.
Dolly Parton was born and raised in the small town of Pittman Center, Tennessee part of Sevier County.
She began singing as a child and eventually found opportunities to perform on local radio stations. After graduating high school, she moved to Nashville to record songs and the rest is history!
Today, Dolly Parton is one of America’s most renowned country singers. She’s also a great representation for her home state of Tennessee. As a result, it should come as no surprise that her fans wanted to replace statues of Confederate figures with statues of her.
On February 9th, 2021, a bill passed by the Tennessee House Committee to install a Dolly Parton statue at the state’s capitol building. The bill introduced by representative John Windle. And intended to develop plans to implement a Dolly Parton Statue by creating a Dolly Parton fund from the state’s budget.
The bill wanted to show appreciation for the singer and her contributions to Tennessee. However, upon hearing news of the bill’s passing, the singer decided to issue a statement rejecting the proposal.
On her social media profiles, the singer stated, “I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of a bill to erect a statue of me on the Capitol grounds,”
She further stated that she honored and humbled. But that she requested the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill altogether.
She gave her reasoning for her reticence with the following statement:
“Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time,”
But what did the singer mean by ‘all that is going on in the world,’. And what are the reactions to her statement?
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The rejection of the Dolly Parton statue proposal isn’t the first time that the singer has rejected some sort of public recognition. Dolly twice offered the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump.
The first time she rejected the medal as she wanted to stay with her husband who was ill at the time. The second time she didn’t want to travel to the nation’s capitol in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is one of the highest honors for contributing to the United States. And is one of the most prestigious accolades that an American can receive.
In fact, former President Barack Obama stated that he regretted not offering Dolly Parton the medal of freedom during his presidency.
As such, the Presidential Medal of Freedom remains an award yet to bestowed upon Dolly Parton. It also seems that a Dolly Parton statue will not installed at the Tennessee State Capitol anytime soon.
One would expect fans to disappointed with her rejection of the statue. However, on Twitter many fans praised her for rejecting the statue. To them, it showed her dignity and humility. It showed fans that she didn’t have a big ego and cared deeply about others. In fact, some argued that her rejection of a Dolly Parton statue gave even more reason to build a Dolly Parton statue!
Others took to Twitter to praise her career and her philanthropic work. Apart from her achievements in the entertainment industry. Dolly Parton has also done a lot for her home state of Tennessee.
In 1988, the singer created The Dollywood Foundation. This foundation has helped improve education and literacy in her native Sevier County, Tennessee. She also donated $1 Million for research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
She’s always shown that she’s never forgotten her roots. She remembers the struggle of growing up poor in the Tennessee countryside and she wants to improve the lives of others.
While Tennessee won’t be getting a Dolly Parton statue anytime soon. There is another place where you can see a statue of the singer!
If you go to the Sevier County Courthouse, Tennessee you’ll see a Dolly Parton statue with a large smile on her face and a guitar in her arms!
Sevier County is where she grew up and she’s referred to as the county’s “favorite daughter.” To show their love and appreciation for the singer. The people of Sevier County decided to fundraise for the creation of the statue.
Artist Jim Gray commissioned to design the statue. After his design approved, Dolly Parton herself came back to Sevier County to pose for the building of the statue. Jim Gray build the skeletal foundation of the Dolly Parton statue using steel. Afterward, he used 300 pounds of clay to sculpt the statue.
The statue was then sent to the Wagner Foundry in Virginia to get cast in bronze. The statue was unveiled on May 3, 1987 – one year after the Dollywood theme park was opened.
The opening ceremony grew a crowd of 500 spectators including Dolly’s father Lee! At the ceremony, Dolly Parton proclaimed that the statue, “makes me feel like you folks are proud of me, and I’ve always wanted you to be.”
Jim Gray also attended the event and stated that he got more offers for help to build the Dolly Parton statue more than any other project in his entire career!
This statue remains one of the most prominent monuments in the whole of Tennessee. It especially meant a lot to Lee Parton who felt proud to see his daughter immortalized with the statue. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Dolly Parton stated that her father would drive to the statue with a bucket and soap to clean the statue on occasion!
The statue remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tennessee. No doubt if a second statue does get built, it will also attract many tourists from all over the country. With the amazing character that Dolly Parton has. No doubt there’ll continue to be more offers for her to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom!
But this brings us back to the question of the second Dolly Parton statue. While state legislators have discussed installing a statue, there’s so far not been a word on Dolly Parton statues replacing Confederate statues.
The issue of Confederate statues has become one of the biggest controversies throughout the South and the country as a whole. Many people feel that statues of Confederate figures are celebrating men who tried to tear the country apart. Others feel that it’s important to preserve history as well as the history of the South during the Confederacy.
The original petition may have inspired the current Dolly Parton statue bill, however, it had stated that it wanted every Confederate statue to get replaced by a statue of the singer.
When Dolly Parton stated that she didn’t want the new statue to get built she used the phrase “Given all that is going on in the world…”
It’s likely that she was referring to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a huge impact in the entire world. But in the United States, the pandemic has been one of many recent issues in the past year.
Americans have also had to experience riots following the death of George Floyd. There’s been controversy with the most recent Presidential election. There was another riot that involved storming the nation’s capitol building.
And the controversy and debate surrounding the Confederate statues continues to linger on.
As such, perhaps it’s important for the Tennessee legislature to focus its efforts elsewhere. Perhaps the state’s budget needs to get used to help Tennesseans get their lives back to normal due to the shock of COVID-19. Perhaps this is a time for our leadership to help bring Americans together.
At the same time, it’s often been our artists who have done the best job of bringing us together. It’s our artists who have given us optimism and hope for the future.
In the original petition, Dolly Parton was identified as one such artist who has spent her entire life in bringing Americans together.
Maybe seeing another Dolly Parton statue is exactly what the country needs to lift its mood!
So what do you think about Dolly Parton’s rejection of her proposed statue? Do you think she’s right to do it given the mood in the country? Or is it right to replace Confederate statues with statues of the country singer?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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