Kentucky governor seeks vote to oust Davis bust from Capitol
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s governor called Thursday on a state commission to vote to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the state Capitol’s Rotunda, a day after another statue of the Confederate president was toppled by protesters in Virginia.
Gov. Andy Beshear’s request comes amid a rapidly unfolding protest movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the U.S. after the death of George Floyd. The black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes, even after Floyd stopped pleading for air.
The Democratic governor called the statue a divisive symbol, saying it has to go.
“It is long past due to remove a statue that some kids who come into this Capitol ... see as a symbol that they don’t matter, a symbol of the enslavement of their ancestors and a symbol of the continued systematic racism that we see in so many parts of our society,” Beshear said.
After requesting a special meeting of the Historic Properties Advisory Commission, Beshear said, he expects its members to vote Friday in favor of moving the statue.
“We expect a bipartisan vote in favor of removal of the statue tomorrow. It’s my expectation,” said Beshear, whose administration reached out to the commission members.
The 15-foot (4.5-meter) marble statue of Davis occupies a corner of the state’s ornate Capitol Rotunda near a bronze likeness of Abraham Lincoln. Both men were born in Kentucky. The statues of the Civil War adversaries are among several on display in the Rotunda.
Advocates have for years been asking state officials to remove the Davis statue. In 2018, officials removed a plaque declaring the only president of the Confederacy to be a “Patriot-Hero-Statesman.”
The governor said the Davis statue, if removed, could end up at the Jefferson Davis state historic site in southern Kentucky where the Confederate leader was born.
In Richmond, Virginia, meanwhile, protesters on Wednesday night pulled down a century-old statue of Davis in the former capital of the Confederacy, adding it to the list of Old South monuments removed or damaged around the U.S. amid the protests.
Beshear said he expected robust discussion on what to do with the space if the Davis statue is moved. Options include having a permanent replacement, allowing a rotation of statues or leaving the space empty for more seating. The Rotunda is a popular rallying place when the legislature is in session.
Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel said Thursday that he is pre-filing a bill to replace the Davis statue with one of Kentucky native Carl Brashear, an African-American military hero and master diver in the US. Navy. Brashear had his story told in the movie “Men of Honor.”
“He led a life that all of us can be proud to tell our children about when we bring them through these hallowed halls,” McDaniel said.
His legislation would appropriate $500,000 for the commissioning and erection of the statue in the Capitol Rotunda.