A statue of an Iowan who won the 1970 Nobel Prize will eventually stand in a special spot in the U.S. Capitol. Each state gets to have two statues in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall and a likeness of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a plant scientist known worldwide as the father of the “green revolution”, will replace a statue honoring a prominent Iowan from the Civil War-era.
The Iowa House and Senate voted Tuesday to bestow the honor on Borlaug, who died in the fall of 2009 at the age of 95. State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm is from Cresco, Borlaugh’s hometown.
“He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse,” Wilhelm says. “He represents the best of Iowa: hard-work, dedication to public service and compassion for those in need.” Borlaug worked to improve the varieties of wheat, dramatically improving yields. Borlaug is often credited with saving more people from starvation than any other human being who’s ever lived.
“His family still lives around Howard County,” Wilhelm says. “And he was a wonderful person.” Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines says legislators plan to display Civil War-era hero James Harlan’s statue in the statehouse in Des Moines once Borlaug’s likeness replaces Harlan’s in the U.S. Capitol.
“I kind of feel bad for Harlan, but I know we’ll find a suitable place for his statue,” McCoy says. “I believe this is where Norman Borlaug belongs and I think we can all be proud of it.” Harlan was an outspoken opponent of slavery who served as president of Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant before serving in the U.S. Senate.
The statue honoring Harlan was placed in the U.S. Capitol in 1910. Samuel Kirkwood, one of Iowa’s first governors, is the other Iowan honored by a statue in the U.S. Capitol. Some state legislators say they plan to explore the idea of replacing Kirkwood’s statue with the likeness of a notable Iowa woman.
About a decade ago Congress passed a law allowing states to replace the figures in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building. But the switch can only be made if a state’s governor and legislature approve the move. Borlaug, who worked his way through college during The Great Depression, helped found The World Food Prize, an award given annually to honor those who’re working to feed the world.