1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Bye-bye Confederate general. Hello Mary McLeod Bethune.

A 9-foot marble statue of Bethune is already under construction in Italy. On the 144th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s birthday, Gov. Ron DeSantis requested that it replace the likeness of General Edmund Kirby Smith as Florida’s representative in National Statuary Hall in Washington.
Eleanor Roosevelt visits with Mary McLeod Bethune (1937). [State Archives of Florida]
Published Jul. 11

Gov. Ron DeSantis formally asked Wednesday that the statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune replace the likeness of a Confederate general as a representative of Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

DeSantis sent a letter to the architect of the U.S. Capitol officially requesting that the Bethune statue be substituted for the one of General Edmund Kirby Smith in National Statuary Hall, a change Florida lawmakers approved last year.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the governor’s office noted his request was made on the 144th anniversary of McLeod Bethune’s birth.

RELATED COVERAGE: 5 things to know about Mary McLeod Bethune, who’s getting a statue in the U.S. Capitol

Civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Confederate general as Florida’s statue at U.S. Capitol

Perspective: If Florida boots Confederate general’s statue, here are some candidates to replace him

“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was an influential educator, leader and civil rights activist who became one of Florida’s and our nation’s most influential leaders,” DeSantis said in the release. “Dr. McLeod Bethune’s statue will represent the best of who we are as Floridians to visitors from around the world in our nation’s capitol. Her legacy endures and will continue to inspire future generations.”

Bethune, who will become the first African-American woman honored by a state in the national hall, founded what became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and later worked as an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.

Each state is allowed to have two representatives in the national hall. Florida’s other representative is John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

The Florida Legislature voted in 2016 to replace the Smith statue, in the midst of a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols that followed the 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

Smith was born in St. Augustine but had few ties to Florida as an adult. As commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi, Smith was considered the last general with a major field force to surrender. He has represented Florida in the National Statuary Hall since 1922.

The proposal to remove Smith drew opposition from a group called Save Southern Heritage, which was formed in 2015 in response to “knee-jerk Anti-Southern institutionalized bullying.”

Despite agreeing to remove Smith, lawmakers were unable to come up with a replacement during the 2017 session, as the House did not move forward with any of the suggestions from the Great Floridians Program within the state Division of Historic Resources.

The committee advanced Bethune’s name along with Everglades activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix grocery store founder George Washington Jenkins, Jr.

Democrats’ demands to replace Smith intensified after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly. A plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee helped spur the Charlottesville rally in 2017.

A 9-foot marble statue of Bethune is already under construction in Italy, funded through donations to the Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation set up through the Daytona Beach Community Foundation, Inc. and the university that bears her name.

The new work is expected to arrive at the nation’s capitol in 2020.

“This is a proud day for Florida and for the community that Dr. Bethune called ‘home,’ ” Bob Lloyd, chairman of the Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, said in the governor’s pres release. “We are so appreciative of the support of Governor DeSantis, Bethune-Cookman University and all Floridians who are bringing this great project to fruition.”

The Smith statue is set to be relocated at the Lake County Historical Society and Museum in Tavares as a Florida Department of State exhibition and long-term loan, according to the governor’s office.


  1. Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse environment in this room at the Curaleaf Homestead Cultivation Facility. This environment controls the amount of natural sunlight and artificial light the plants are exposed to, as well as the temperature. EMILY MICHOT  |  Miami Herald
    An Atlanta broker is listing one license for $40 million and the other for $55 million.
  2. Screenshot from Facebook. Facebook
    The claim comes from a widely shared Facebook post.
  3. The 12 Democratic presidential candidates in the next debate are, from top left, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, and, from lower left, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Los Angeles Times
    The field is still thick with 12 candidates set to debate Tuesday night. Here’s what to watch for.
  4. FILE- In this Oct. 11, 2018 file photo, rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla. A year after Hurricane Michael, Bay County, Florida, is still in crisis. Thousands are homeless, medical care and housing are at a premium, and domestic violence is increasing. Michael was among the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States. This summer, county officials unveiled a blueprint to rebuild. Among their ideas: Use shipping containers and 3-D technology to build new houses and offer signing bonuses to lure new doctors.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Lawmakers today are discussing why nearly 12 percent of claims are still open.
  5. Rain from Tropical Storm Hermine and high tides flooded streets around Tampa last September. A new analysis projects that sea level in Tampa Bay could rise 5 to 19 inches by 2040. That is prompting local officials to look at plans to anticipate and cope with the changes. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times (2016)
    “We lost a decade,’’ said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.
  6. Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks Lev Parnas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    A Tampa Bay Times photograph and a video posted by a Reuters reporter shows Parnas smiling with DeSantis amid the chaos of the watch party.
  7. Andrew Gillum.
    Sharon Lettman-Hicks, one of Andrew Gillum’s closest advisers, helped the Florida Democratic Party register new voters.
  8. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. [DAVID SANTIAGO | Miami Herald]
    Scott’s received contributions from the two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were arrested last week.
  9. Emissions from cars and trucks are a major source of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. An analysis by the New York Times found that air pollution from those sources has increased in the Tampa Bay area by 55 percent since 1990. [Times (2008)]
    Florida once had emissions inspections, but Jeb Bush ended them in 2000
  10. Trump National Doral resort in Doral. EMILY MICHOT  |  TNS
    Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was listed as a speaker Friday evening, appeared that night at the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County’s Lincoln Day Dinner, a well-attended gala also held at Trump National...