- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - In light of a recent relocation of the portraits of Governors. George and Lurleen Wallace at the State Capitol Building, the Alabama Historical Commission maintains the move was not a slight, but a reorganization of portraits.

On Jan. 15, days before Gov. Robert Bentley’s inauguration, the commission moved the portraits of the Wallaces from the second floor of the rotunda to the first floor next to Secretary of State John Merrill’s office. Portraits of Bentley, as well as former Govs. Bob Riley, Don Siegelman and Fob James are now on the second floor.

Stephen McNair, director of historic sites for the commission, said the move was part of a new tradition of displaying the sitting governor’s portrait in sequential order beside the three most recent governors. McNair said other portraits would be moved over the years as more governors are inaugurated.

“This initiative was implemented to showcase the current administration’s portrait, and in the process create a sequential timeline of Alabama’s gubernatorial leadership,” McNair said. “What we have a done is we have rearranged the portraits into a sequential, historically accurate timeline with the presence of our sitting governor.”

McNair said that out of respect to the Wallace family, he informed George Wallace Jr. about the commission’s plans. However, in recent days Wallace has expressed disapproval of his parents’ portraits being moved, citing it as an effort to diminish the contributions of his parents to Alabama. George Wallace served four terms as governor between 1963 and 1987. Lurleen B. Wallace served as governor from 1967 to 1968.

“My mother, as Alabama’s first and only woman governor, is certainly a part of history that is significant, and while there are those who think of her only as a surrogate for my father, they could not be more wrong,” Wallace said in a Facebook post last week.

In addition, Wallace said his father was also misunderstood in his place in Alabama history.

“My father’s legacy of once supporting segregation but realizing he was wrong, as his conscience told him he was wrong, is a wonderful lesson for everyone,” he said. “His work to bring about racial reconciliation, understanding and brotherhood is more than I see today from anyone.”

In his post, Wallace referred to a resolution that was passed in 1983 by the Alabama Legislature to keep the Wallace portraits on the first floor of the rotunda next to the statue of Lurleen Wallace. However, McNair said the resolution was merely a suggestion and that since the 1990s, the portraits were on the second floor of the rotunda.

“A resolution can request or suggest action, but it does not hold the authority of a bill,” McNair said. “What we have done is move them back to the first floor, which is where the resolution requests them to be located.”

McNair said it was not the commission’s intention to besmirch the name of the Wallace family.

“As the stewards and interpreters of Alabama history, we have the utmost respect for the achievements of the Wallace family,” McNair said. “In no way should this be interpreted as an action of revisionist history or trying to diminish the Wallace legacy in any way.”

McNair said the portraits are the property of the Alabama Department of Archives and History and that, according to tradition, each administration donates its portrait to the state. The portraits are loaned to the Alabama Historical Commission “to be interpreted for the public at the Capitol.”

McNair said he had received a letter from State Auditor Jim Zeigler about the portraits being relocated and that he would have a meeting with him Friday to discuss it.

Jennifer Ardis, spokeswoman for Gov. Bentley, said although the relocation of the portraits was the commission’s decision, Bentley was consulted by the group about the move and supported the initiative. She said that since the portraits were relocated, the governor’s office had received a few calls about the portraits, both in favor of the relocation and against it.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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