Subcommittee recommends Vel Phillips statue outside Capitol


MADISON, Wis. — A statue of Wisconsin’s first black secretary of state outside the state Capitol came a little closer to reality Tuesday after a subcommittee settled on a location outside the building’s south side.

The state Capitol and Executive Residence Board subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend the board place a statue of Vel Phillips at the end of a wide sidewalk leading from the street to the Capitol’s south entrance.

The recommendation also calls for the board to waive policies prohibiting the addition of any internal or external monuments without removing an existing one and to commission New York-based artist Radcliffe Bailey to design the statue. Baily was commissioned to design a monument to NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois in Milwaukee.

The full board is expected to vote on the recommendation at a meeting sometime this fall, said state Department of Administration spokeswoman Tatyana Warrick.

Phillips was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1951. She went on to become the first Black member of the Milwaukee Common Council and the state’s first Black judge. She won election in 1978 as the state’s first female and first non-white secretary of state.

Michael Johnson, CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, started pushing for the statue last year in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests over police brutality.

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