Beachland Tavern set by experimental rockers Home and Garden, synthesizer/theremin player Robert Wheeler passed out a stack of ballots earmarked for the Ohio General Assembly. His candidate: inventor Thomas Edison, who created the first system of sound recording and playback. The prize: a statue at the U.S. Capitol.
Each state has two such statues, honoring a pair of distinguished native citizens. (Edison, who grew up in Michigan and did much of his work in New Jersey, was born in Milan, an hour west of Cleveland.) Ohio is currently represented by former President James Garfield and former Governor William Allen. But Allen’s pro-slavery views have made him somewhat less popular among the other statues.
A committee in the Ohio legislature postponed its actual work to create a list of 10 replacement candidates. In addition to Edison, it includes Ohio luminaries like Jesse Owens, Ulysses S. Grant, and the Wright brothers.
Wheeler’s support of Edison goes beyond fraternal love of a fellow sonic adventurer: He is Edison’s great-great-grandnephew, and he lives on a farm in Milan once owned by Edison’s sister. For 38 years, he’s headed the Edison Birthplace Association.
All Ohioans are eligible to vote through June 12. Ballots are available at Ohio Historical Sites and are downloadable at legacyforohio.org. The committee will make its final recommendation based on results of the popular vote.