By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Politicians working there, school children visiting and even sign-carrying protesters were all remembered Tuesday for the parts they’ve played in the 100-year life of the Wisconsin state Capitol.
Current and former office holders, including four governors and eight speakers of the state Assembly, gathered in the Capitol rotunda at the kick-off event of the yearlong 100th birthday celebration.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson told stories he says have never been heard before, including one about Election Day 27 years ago when he defied his security guard and scaled the top of the Wisconsin statue outside the top of the dome.
Gov. Scott Walker recalled his first visit to the Capitol as a fourth grade student on a tour and said he still enjoys hearing the “buzz” of school groups winding their ways through the hallways.
And Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack recounted notable protests at the Capitol over the past century, including women marching for the right to vote and college students opposing the Vietnam War. She did not mention the largest protests in recent years — a women’s march the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated two weeks ago that attracted up to 100,000 people and rallies just that large in opposition to Walker’s union changes six years ago.
Walker and Thompson were joined by former governors Scott McCallum and Tony Earl. Dozens of current and past state lawmakers, members of the state Supreme Court, and government employees attended as well.
Several speakers took good-natured jabs at state Sen. Fred Risser, 89, who has been serving in the state Legislature since 1956 and has long been a champion of the Capitol.
“I won’t be around in 2117,” said Senate President Roger Roth, in reference to what will be the Capitol’s 200th birthday. “I think Fred Risser might be.”
Thompson, the state’s longest-serving governor who was in office 14 years, worked closely with Risser in the 1990s and presided over a $150 million renovation of the building. That work restored the Capitol to its original condition and removed, what Thompson called, “off white and dirty green” paint that covered the walls of the governor’s office.
“It’s a temple of democracy,” Thompson said of the Capitol. “It’s the center of democracy. It’s the people’s house.”
That line drew cheers from three protesters who attended the ceremony and held signs that said “We have the worst government money can buy” and “94 years of open govt., 6 years under a dictator.”