WASHINGTON — A bust of the highest ranking Oklahoma politician in history made its way from a storage basement back into the halls of the U.S. Capitol on Monday.
A crowd gathered as the sculpture of former Speaker of the House Carl Albert rejoined those of prominent politicians in the Capitol. All five Oklahoma representatives stood alongside current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to welcome the bust back to the building.
“It’s fitting that we have, again, members with us today from both sides of the aisle because Speaker Albert was a leader. He saw past partisan politics, who rose above rhetoric to represent the best interests of everyone who served,” said Freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5), who led the effort to bring the bust out of storage.
Carl Albert’s grandson, Luke Albert, was working as a congressional intern for Horn this summer when he noticed the bronze bust was missing from the Capitol.
The bust was originally placed in the Capitol in 2004, but its time in the spotlight was short-lived when the statue of the Democrat was moved to storage during Speaker of the House John Boehner’s term.
“We did not know it had been moved,” Katherine Albert, the granddaughter of the Carl Albert, said. “We only found out it had been moved when we found out that they were moving it here.”
Albert served as Speaker from 1971 to 1977 during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment. Because Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973, Albert was next in line to become president following the Watergate Scandal.
“Lesser people would have leveraged that opportunity to make themselves President of the United States. Speaker Albert could have done that, but he chose not to,” Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3) said.
Joel Jankowsky, a former staffer for Albert, said today’s unveiling was especially meaningful because it is the 40th anniversary of the Carl Albert Center’s opening, a nonpartisan institution at the University of Oklahoma that works to inform and engage citizens on democracy.
Although Albert died in 2000, many at the placement ceremony remembered him as the “Little Giant.” While he was only 5-feet, 2-inches tall, speakers at the unveiling said he was known as a proverbial giant who put country over self.