May 7 marks the anniversary of the death of Gov. Lurleen Wallace, the only woman governor in Alabama history.
For State Auditor Jim Zeigler, it also marks the lapse of an important deadline: Zeigler had hoped to rectify what he says was a historic wrong, when two official state portraits of Wallace were removed from the Capitol rotunda, contrary to state law that dictates they remain there “in perpetuity.”
“This was a wrong that needs to be righted,” Zeigler said at the River Region Republican March meeting in Montgomery on Wednesday. “We need to preserve our state’s heritage. These politically correct government officials want their own version of history instead of what actually happened.”
“My goal was to have the portraits returned to their historical place by May 7, the day Gov. Lurleen Wallace died,” he said. “That day is here, and still the portraits remain banished from where they historically and legally were.”
A 1983 joint legislative resolution demands that all state portraits remain in the rotunda.
But former Director of Historic Sites Dr. Stephen McNair took the liberty of removing them in January, placing them instead in a less prominent place on floor down near a infrequently trafficked hallway, where visitors are less likely to see them.
Zeigler had filed a formal complaint to McNair, but the historian left his job with the state in the interim. Zeigler has followed up with his successor’s office, but was not able to get enough traction on the issue to replace the portraits before the symbolic May 7 deadline.