A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sen. Chris McDaniel pre-files bill to replace Jefferson Davis statue at capitol to honor Carl Brashear

This story has been updated

Senator Chris McDaniel announced that he has pre-filed a bill to have the statue of Jefferson Davis removed from Kentucky State Capitol and sent to either the Kentucky Historical Society or the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site.

Sen. Chris McDaniel

Speaking in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s statue in the Capitol Rotunda, Senator McDaniel asked Kentuckians to consider what the statues and symbols represent.

“As I think about those values and aspirations, it is clear that the statue of Jefferson Davis falls short on every level,” Senator McDaniel said. “Jefferson Davis was a man who did not claim Kentucky as his native state, and his crowning achievement was to serve as the head of a confederacy and a movement that cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their lives.

“However, it is easy to tear things down and have ideas about what not to do. It’s harder to build things and have ideas about what you should do. For that reason, I am not willing to let my bill stand just to remove one statue. I will also recommend a replacement for this statue.”

Carl Brasher, U.S. Navy

That replacement, Senator McDaniel argues, should be a statue honoring Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, the first black master diver and first amputee diver in the history of the United States Navy. Brashear, born in Tonieville, KY in LaRue County and raised in Hardin County, had his story told in the movie “Men of Honor,” where he was portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.

Brashear “rose from abject poverty, joined the military, and overcame illiteracy, racism, disability, alcohol addiction, and trials unknown to the average person,” Senator McDaniel said. “He led a life that all of us can be proud to tell our children about when we bring them through these hallowed halls.”

The pre-filed legislation would appropriate $500,000 for the commissioning and erection of the statue in the Capitol Rotunda.

On Friday, the Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted — in a bipartisan vote — to remove the Jefferson David statute from the Rotunda.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued this statement:

“Today has been a historic day in the Commonwealth. Pursuant to my request, the Historic Properties Advisory Commission met and, in a bipartisan vote, voted to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from our Rotunda. It was past time for this vote and for this action. But what it will mean is that we get a little closer to truly being Team Kentucky – that every child who walks into this Capitol feels welcome, and none of them have to look at a symbol and a statue that stands for the enslavement of their ancestors. Today is a move toward showing that everybody is welcome in this building and that our government should work for the betterment of every single Kentuckian – that we have systematic issues that we must address, but that now is the time to truly move forward, to truly make progress and to show that Team Kentucky includes every single Kentuckian.”

Related Posts


  1. Joan Gregory says:

    How about a monument to a woman? There isn’t one in the Capitol and there are a lot of choices.It was a goal of The Kentucky Commission on Women until Matt Bevin essentially killed the Commission. Now you are talking of yet another man. How about Georgia Powers? Black AND a woman!

  2. Kevin LeMaster says:

    You can barely find a statuary depiction of a black man in Kentucky, and much less a black woman. I agree with you Joan Gregory. Ms. Powers was the first person of color and the first woman ever elected to the state senate. I think a statue of her would look great in the Rotunda.

  3. ruth bamberger says:

    I agree with the above comments, and would also add that honoring someone unconnected with the military and political position (the domain of men for so long glorified in our monuments) would give recognition to other areas of life that contribute to the common good of the commonwealth. I recently read
    KENTUCKY WOMEN: TWO CENTURIES OF INDOMITABLE SPIRIT AND VISION, edited by Eugenia Potter. The biographies of 95 women, black and white, convinced me that: 1)KY has a record of outstanding
    women leaders; and 2)given the racial disparities that still exist, a black woman leader should be recognized.

Reply to ruth bamberger Cancel Reply