A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

‘Take it down’ movement reaches Kentucky with calls to remove Jefferson Davis statue from capitol

Staff report

As calls to remove symbols of the Confederacy spread nationwide, a number of prominent Kentuckians have joined the chorus seeking to have the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis removed from the state capitol

Jefferson Davis statue in Kentucky's capitol (Photo from Ky.gov)

Jefferson Davis statue in Kentucky’s capitol (Photo from Ky.gov)

Gov. Steve Beshear, in a statement from his office, said:

“It’s time to reconsider the statues which represent Kentucky in our state capitol, as each statue has been in place for more than a half century. Per state law (KRS 11.026), the Historic Properties Advisory Commission determines what is displayed in the Rotunda, and I am requesting that they review these monuments in context of Kentucky’s history.

Kentucky holds a unique place in Civil War history, as our state was the birthplace of both presidents during that war. Jefferson Davis’ statue is just a few steps away from the central Abraham Lincoln statue. While Davis’ likeness hasn’t been used in the same way as the Confederate flag, a broader discussion of the statue’s position in the Capitol is due.

I urge the Historic Properties Advisory Commission to seek public input as well as the advice of the state’s historians on all the art in the Capitol Rotunda in order to consider the necessary historic, social and educational context of these monuments.”

Numerous news reports also said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested his home state move the statue out of the capitol and into a museum. In one report, McConnell is quoted as saying, “Maybe a better place for that would be the Kentucky History Museum.”

And U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, who represents Kentucky’s Sixth District, issued the following:

“I join my fellow Americans in mourning the tragic events last week in Charleston and the unspeakable massacre of nine innocent children of God. I continue to be inspired by the remarkable grace and Christian love and forgiveness shown by the family members of the victims, which is, ultimately, what is required of all of us to achieve the genuine reconciliation our nation clearly needs. Because I support any and all additional steps that might facilitate healing in our country, I concur in the judgment of state leaders who have called for the statue of Jefferson Davis to be relocated out of the state Capitol building to another location.”

Kentucky House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) also weighed in:

“While we acknowledge the historical perspective of the Civil War in Kentucky, there is a time that we move on from that history and set our Commonwealth on a different path. Therefore I am calling on Governor Steve Beshear to issue an executive order to relocate the Jefferson Davis statue from the Capitol Rotunda to the Kentucky History Center.

Hoover went on to say that if the governor issues an executive order for the removal of the statue, he will pre-file a bill that will “create a commission to suggest to the state curator another Kentuckian to be placed in the Capitol rotunda.”

The statements come as legislators in South Carolina debate removing the Confederate flag from its state capitol amid increasing calls to ‘take it down.’ The debate comes on the heels of a mass shooting at a black Charleston church in which the alleged gunman used Confederate symbols to express his white supremacist beliefs.

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