Private cemetery agrees to take Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough commissioner says
TAMPA — A private cemetery somewhere in Hillsborough County is willing to take Tampa’s Confederate monument if commissioners vote Wednesday to remove it.
The cemetery doesn’t want to be named at this time, Commissioner Victor Crist said, but its board unanimously voted to take it and display it on their grounds.
Crist, who approached the cemetery with the idea, said it’s a 12-acre site that opened in 1911, the same year that officials unveiled Memoria en Aeterna in downtown Tampa. According to Crist, some Civil War veterans are buried there in family plots.
It’s outside the city of Tampa in an area surrounded by wetlands and is not near any black churches, he added. Crist had previously proposed city-owned Oaklawn Cemetery as an destination, but it was rebuffed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in part because of its proximity to St. Paul AME church, a vacant but historic black church, and Greater Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, a large, African American Church.
“They’re excited about this,” Crist said. “It’s a beautiful piece of art, it’s a historical piece, it brings something interesting to that part of the county from a tourism standpoint.”
Commissioners voted 4-3 on June 21 to keep the monument outside the old county courthouse in the heart of downtown Tampa. But Commissioner Les Miller has requested another vote and Crist has since said he supports removal if there’s a place to put it.
Crist is in California this week for a family event and cannot attend Wednesday’s meeting, when commissioners are expected to debate this again. He has requested a delay until August, but Miller wants to proceed.
In his place, Crist has asked County Administrator Mike Merrill to present this cemetery as an alternative destination. At that time, the name of the cemetery will be revealed.
Miller has proposed returning the statue to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization that paid to have the monument erected.
Removing the monument will likely cost between $90,000 and $130,000, according to county estimates.
None of the other three commissioners who voted against removal has publicly changed sides. In light of Crist’s absence Wednesday, one will have to flip for it to be moved.
Conversely, the three commissioners who voted for removal must approve of any new site.
Crist believes this cemetery is a compromise that can appease most.
“We’re lucky they not only said yes, but want it and will care for it,” Crist said.