COLUMBIA — University of South Carolina basketball star A'ja Wilson would get her own monument on Statehouse grounds under legislation proposed Wednesday.
It would be another first for the most decorated athlete in the school's history, as there is no monument to an athlete — or a woman — among the historical figures honored around the state's capitol.
The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Leon Howard, has no chance this year, with just four days left in the legislative calendar. It would face difficulties anyway in a state where allegiances are divided between Gamecocks and Tigers, and legislators avoid debates involving South Carolina's controversial history of race relations.
But it does signify Wilson's popularity.
Wilson, a Hopkins native, was the No. 1 overall pick in last month's WNBA Draft after leading the Gamecocks to a national championship last year and winning numerous national player of the year accolades this year.
"Recognizing important South Carolinians shouldn't be limited to the past," said Howard, D-Columbia. "We should recognize greatness in the present."
A 2007 state law put a moratorium on any new monuments on Statehouse grounds, though it allows exceptions through a detailed approval process.
Other proposals for new monuments have gone nowhere.
Last fall, two state senators — a black Democrat and a white Republican — proposed memorializing black Civil War hero Robert Smalls, who in 1862 hijacked a Confederate supply ship he worked on, steered his family to freedom and delivered the ammunition-laden vessel to the Union. He went on to be a state lawmaker and five-term congressman.
Weeks later, two GOP House members proposed a monument recognizing blacks in South Carolina who served in the Confederate military, noting hundreds applied for state-provided Confederate pensions. While incomplete, state archives show most black Confederates were slaves given no choice but to serve the Confederacy as cooks, laborers and personal attendees.
Nothing on Statehouse grounds recognizes an individual African-American.
A monument that broadly portrays centuries of African-American history in the state was part of a 2000 compromise that took the Confederate battle flag off the Statehouse dome and put it on a 30-foot flagpole beside a monument to Confederate soldiers.
Legislators passed a law removing the rebel banner off the grounds entirely in 2015 after avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.