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NASHVILLE — Tennessee Rep. Mark Windle is not only singing the praises of country music and cultural icon Dolly Parton, he's introduced legislation to erect a statue of the internationally known Tennessee native, songwriter, actress, author, businesswoman and humanitarian on the state Capitol's grounds.

"At this point in history, there's no better example of a decent and kind leader than Dolly Parton," the Livingston Democrat said of Parton, a Sevier County native.

Windle said Parton "is loved, not just in Tennessee but across the world. And we need more leaders that exhibit good judgment, decency and kindness. She exemplifies that."

He said he expects state Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Cookeville, to carry the measure in the General Assembly's upper chamber.

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Read a copy of Rep. John Mark Windle's House Bill on Dolly Parton

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The measure, House Bill 135, directs the State Capitol Commission to implement a plan for commissioning the statue to recognize Parton, 74, "for all she has contributed to the state."

It wouldn't use state funds and instead would rely on gifts, grants and other donations to pay for it. Windle predicted the money will be readily raised. The statue of Dolly Parton would face in the direction of the Ryman Auditorium, where Parton has performed many times over a career going back to the 1960s. The State Building Commission would be required to solicit input from the public and other interested parties for purposes of developing the plan, including proposed design concepts for the statue.

In 2020, legislative Democrats and others suggested replacing the controversial bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest with Parton. Thousands signed a petitition to honor the Sevier County native who created the Dollywood amusement theme park in Pigeon Forge.

The statue bill isn't the only Parton legislation on Tennessee lawmakers' plates this year.

Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 15. It urges Joe Biden after he assumes the presidency on Jan. 20 to honor Parton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Read a copy of Sen. Heidi Campbell's resolution on Dolly Parton

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Campbell's resolution cites Parton's modest beginnings growing up on a farm, the fourth of what eventually became a dozen children of her parents, and rising in the music industry, appearing on country music legend Porter Wagoner's television program and becoming famous in her own right, going on to have numerous top hits and appear in films.

The senator also cites the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program that provides a new, age-appropriate book each month to preschool children from birth to their fifth birthday, which has donated more than 100 millions worldwide.

Her resolution also notes how Parton stepped in to help her neighbors in 2016 after wildfires destroyed thousands of acres in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Parton and her Dollywood Foundation provided $10,000 each to 900 families who had lost their homes.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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