Helen Keller Gives Confederate Officer the Boot

Statue installed in Capitol

Thursday, Oct 8, 2009  |  Updated 12:55 AM CDT
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A Helen Keller statue was unveiled Wednesday at the Capitol.

A Helen Keller statue was unveiled Wednesday at the Capitol.

WASHINGTON -- Alabama gave a former Confederate officer the boot from the Capitol Wednesday to make room for Helen Keller.

Alabama unveiled a bronze of Keller depicting her at age 7 -- her moment of epiphany when she solved "the mystery of language" without sight or hearing.

The statue is the first honoring a disabled person in the U.S. Capitol and is the only one of a child in the Capitol collection.

Each state has two statues in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, which was permanent until 2000, when Congress allowed for changes.

The Keller statue replaces one of Jabez Curry, a former Confederate officer, educator, ambassador and preacher who was once well known for advocating for free public education. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a former congressman, came up with the idea to replace Curry when he found that most Alabama visitors didn't know who Curry was.

The statue depicts Keller at her home in Tuscumbia, Ala., as her teacher Anne Sullivan spelled out the word "water" in her hand while pumping water over her other hand.

Keller said the moment "awakened (her) soul" to the potential for her life. She later became an internationally celebrated advocate for those with disabilities. She died in 1968.

In a ceremony unveiling the statue in the Capitol Rotunda, Riley said the monument will remind people "that courage and strength can exist in the most unlikely places."

The Keller statue was funded with private donations raised by the state and will be placed in the new Capitol Visitor Center. The project cost about $325,000.

The statue of Curry, who died in 1903, will be moved to Samford University in Birmingham.

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