For many of us who have done the tour of Washington D.C. once or twice we have seen the famous statues of individuals such as: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and the newly constructed Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. Then there are those memorial statues that you have to pay a little bit closer attention to in order to take notice of such as: John Barry, Philip Sheridan, John A Rawlins, and William O Douglas. Not that these men are not deserving in some way however when one examines the full list it is hard not to consider certain individuals without memorials whose achievements in American History are deserving of a memorial statue in Washington D.C.
1) John Adams - Although these are written in alphabetical order it is hard for me not to consider John Adams as the most deserving of a memorial than anyone else on this list. Adams was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. He assisted Jefferson and Franklin in drafting the Declaration of Independence, nominated Washington as commander-in-chief of the continental army, negotiated the peace treaty with Great Britain, served as the first Vice-President of the United States and served as the second President of the United States. It is difficult to look at Adams resume and understand why he does not have a memorial in Washington D.C. honoring him and his achievements. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Adams had a bit of a temper and a way with words that tended to frustrate people and alienate him from those who disagreed with what he said. Adams took this into the Presidency and despite being a very intelligent and thoughtful leader he alienated Congress and even his own cabinet. In addition, Adams was convinced by others to pass the "Alien and Sedition Act" which limited the freedom of press and speech against the government. This move was seen as tyrannical and monarchical causing many in the nation to turn against him. Unfortunately for Adams, histories of the United States and its founding were being written during this time and downplayed his role in the American Revolutionary War. This caused Americans for the next 150 years to consider Adams role in our founding history as a minor. It really was not until David McCullough's book John Adams was published that the role of Adams in the founding of our country was elevated. Now we see Adams role in the American Revolution and beyond as a key to the founding of our country.
2) Crispus Attucks - If there is a memorial to Nathan Hale in Washington D.C. there should be one for Crispus Attucks. Little is known of Attucks' life aside from his martyrdom for American liberty at the Boston Massacre in 1770. Many historians consider him the first casualty of the American Revolution despite five others getting killed. We should celebrate his sacrifice and desire to fight for independence from Great Britain and its tyranny. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Technically his death did not occur during the actual American Revolution which started five years later. Another factor could be our overall lack of knowledge about his past and why exactly he was protesting that night in Boston. Plus the controversy of that night was played out in the courts when John Adams defended the British soldiers and won. In reality though Crispus Attucks was an African-American and unless the memorial was commissioned in the last 20 years there is little chance it would have been put up due to prejudice.
3) Henry Clay - In school we learn of Henry Clay as the "Great Compromiser". He helped stave off war between the North and South by helping both sides come to an agreement both in 1820 and in 1850. In hindsight the war between the states was inevitable with slavery still in place, but Clay worked hard at appeasing both sides and keeping the peace. Clay served as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams. Despite owning slaves like many of his counter parts at the time, he freed them all upon his death. In fact Lincoln was quoted as saying Clay was his "ideal of a great man". To honor him fifteen states named counties after him. Clay played an very important role in holding together the union during the early-nineteenth century when we were on the edge of breaking apart. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Henry Clay is highly revered in his home state of Kentucky where you will find Ashland, Clay's home turned museum, as well numerous memorial statues in the Lexington, Kentucky area and around the state. Looking back on the events of the Civil War it is difficult to say Clay prevented bloodshed in America, he simply delayed a war that had to be fought. Therefore his accomplishments are diminished as trivial rather than vital to our nations stability. Also Clay is sometimes seen as a big Presidential loser having lost his bid to become President of the United States three times.
4) Thomas Edison - I questioned the idea of putting an inventor on the list of people that deserve a memorial in our nation's capital but if Albert Einstein has one, why not Edison. His list of accomplishments and contributions stands second to no one. As the "Wizard of Menlo Park" he created culture altering devices such as the phonograph, motion-picture camera, and the light bulb. He was also the founder of what is today, General Electric. Edison's contributions to American life are prolific and desiring of honor. Why He Doesn't Have One?: More than likely it is because he is not a politician or military hero. Washington D.C. is associated with politics and war and an inventor usually is not thought of on that list. However Edison did so much for this country and the world that he is deserving of a memorial in our nation's capital.
5) Dwight D Eisenhower - Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II and President of the United States for two terms, Eisenhower's leadership was pivotal in the defeat of Germany army and bringing an end to World War II. As President he is best known for the creation of the Interstate Highway System which holds his name. Eisenhower was consider a man of great integrity and an excellent leader. He truly is a man worthy of honoring. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Well frankly it just has not been built yet. In 1999, Congress approved a commission to be formed with the purpose of designing and creating an Eisenhower Memorial. A design was officially approved in 2011 (can you believe it took over ten years to make that happen) and groundbreaking for the project is set to begin in the fall of 2012. It will be located near the National Mall on Maryland Ave, across the street from the National Air and Space Museum.
6) James Madison - This is another major omission from the Washington D.C. memorial landscape that I do not understand. Madison was the "Father of the Constitution" and creator of the Bill of Rights. If it was not for Madison's determination the Constitution would not have been ratified in the United States and become the law of the land for the last two and a half centuries. Madison served as Secretary of State under Jefferson and then as President of the United States. As President he led the nation through the War of 1812 and into the beginning of the "Era of Good Feelings". Madison is such a great man and vital to the founding of our of country, that he is well deserving of a large memorial to his accomplishments on par with Jefferson and FDR. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Honestly I'm not sure. Madison has his name attached to one of the three buildings that make up the Library of Congress but there is not much beyond that honoring his achievements. Maybe its the fact that he stood only 5'4". Madison along with Adams is probably the most deserving Presidents in need of a memorial that do not have one currently
7) James K Polk - This may take some convincing because very few people know about President Polk and what he achieved but he is in my top ten of favorite Presidents of all time. Polk served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governor of Tennessee, and then President of the United States. As President he wanted to accomplish four items: 1) Establish a Treasury Department, 2) Reduce Tariffs, 3) Acquire Oregon Territory, 4) Acquire California and New Mexico from Mexico. At the end of his term he promised he was not going to seek a second term. He accomplished all four of his goals within that first term and fulfilled his promise to not seek a second term. He chose not to seek a second term because he had nothing further to prove. Polk is typically rated high among historians as greatest presidents of all time. Why He Doesn't Have One?: Polk is one of the least known U.S. Presidents despite his achievements and overseeing a war (Mexican-American War). It honestly is not surprising that he is without a memorial but one which I believe would be well deserved, even if it was small.