- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

RICHMOND (AP) — A stone tablet ringed by bronze likenesses of civil rights leaders is the likely choice for a monument on Virginia’s Capitol grounds.

Scheduled for completion in 2007, the monument would honor those who spoke out at a time when open racism reigned in Virginia.

Sculptor Stanley Bleifeld’s design was one of several reviewed for the monument, to be located just steps from the governor’s mansion.

A nine-member panel gave preliminary approval Wednesday.

The bronze images would include those of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Barbara Johns, who was 16 when she led a student walkout to protest separate-but-unequal facilities at Moton High on April 23, 1951.

A statue honoring civil rights at the center of what was once the seat of Confederate government is no small accomplishment.

The city was split in the 1990s when a likeness of Richmond-born tennis star Arthur Ashe — the only black man ever to win the Wimbledon championship — went on Monument Avenue, a grand boulevard featuring towering statuary of Confederate generals.

And up to now, the lush Capitol lawn has been dominated by statues of men such as Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

It was Virginia’s first lady, Lisa Collis, who noticed an absence while walking her dogs around the Capitol grounds a few years ago.

“It became more obvious to me on my 20th trip around these statues that there was a lot of history not there,” said Mrs. Collis, who serves on the panel that chose the design.

The next phase is inviting the artist for a two-day visit to review the site, said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Mark Warner. That could happen within a month.

The monument is expected to cost at least $1 million and will be funded privately.

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