Tennessee state legislators introduced a bill last month that would enshrine country legend and humanitarian Dolly Parton on Capitol grounds.
But Parton isn’t sure that’s a good idea.
The East Tennessee native, who rarely addresses politics publicly, doesn’t “think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time,” she said Thursday in a statement to The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Parton thanked the legislature for considering the bill before confirming she asked lawmakers to remove it “from any and all consideration.”
“I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I’m gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I’m certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennessean.”
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The statement continued, “In the meantime, I’ll continue to try to do good work to make this great state proud.”
It isn’t the first time this year that Parton pulled herself from the running of prestigious lifetime honors. The Country Music Hall of Fame entertainer twice declined a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the Trump administration, according to a “Today” show interview earlier this month, and isn’t sure if she’d accept the honor from President Joe Biden.
Rep. John Windle, D-Livingston, introduced the bill to require the State Capitol Commission to develop a plan to erect a Parton statue facing the Ryman Auditorium. The commission, created by the legislature in 1986, oversees the restoration and preservation of the Capitol Complex.
The bill would create the “Dolly Parton fund” to pay for the design, construction and maintenance of the statue. The bill is scheduled to go before the House state government committee on Tuesday.
Windle burst out laughing upon hearing Parton’s response Thursday morning. He said he respects Parton’s wishes but thinks the world needs more of her.
“With all this going on now, we need people like her more than ever. To some degree, our political leaders and the political system has failed America in both parties,” he said. “I would encourage people like Dolly to become more involved in the public place as opposed to less.”
Windle said seven to 10 people have approached him and signaled their intention to fund the statue. The representative said he will not withdraw the bill but will instead encourage Parton’s fans to change her mind.
“I believe it’s totally appropriate. I certainly respect her wishes but I’m gonna give her fans a chance to change her mind,” he said. “Because she’s wrong. She does deserve this.”
Suggestions to establish a Parton monument in the Capitol first came up during last year’s legislative session amid debate over the removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, from the building.
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The Capitol Commission voted to remove the bust of Forrest, along with the busts of U.S. Admirals David Farragut, who remained loyal to the Union and served during the Civil War, and Albert Gleaves, who served during the Spanish-American War and World War I.
The issue now goes before the Tennessee Historical Commission in March.
Duane W. Gang contributed to this report.