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Florida Confederate statue headed to Tallahassee, for now

The statue was removed from the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 4. Florida lawmakers in 2016 voted to replace the Smith statue after the 2015 shooting deaths of nine Black worshippers at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C.
Edmund Kirby Smith
Edmund Kirby Smith [ [U.S. DEPT. OF THE INTERIOR] ]
Published Sep. 21

TALLAHASSEE — A statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith that stood in the U.S. Capitol for nearly a century as a representation of Florida will be moved to Tallahassee, but don’t expect the bronze likeness to be displayed publicly until a new home is found.

“The statute will be relocated and transported to the Museum of Florida History and we anticipate transferring the statue to another museum in the future to be made available for public display in Florida,” Florida Department of State spokesman Mark Ard said in an email Monday.

Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was born in Florida but left as a child.
Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was born in Florida but left as a child.

The statue, which was removed from the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 4, had served as one of Florida’s two representatives in the National Statuary Hall since 1922. The state’s other statue depicts John Gorrie, who is widely considered the father of air conditioning.

Florida lawmakers in 2016 voted to replace the Smith statue amid a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols that followed the 2015 shooting deaths of nine Black worshippers at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C.

Florida lawmakers later decided to use a statue of educator and civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune to represent the state. The Bethune statue, created in Italy by sculptor Nilda Comas, is due to arrive at the U.S. Capitol in February.

Lake County commissioners in 2019 supported an effort by the Lake County Historical Society and Museum to house the statue of Smith at a historic courthouse in Tavares. But commissioners last year reversed the decision, saying the anticipated arrival of the Smith likeness in Lake County had created divisions.

In their reversal, they pointed to the St. Augustine-born Smith having no ties to Lake County and said that the courthouse-turned-museum has a “tragic history” for the role it played in a case known as the Groveland Four.

As commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi, Smith was considered the last general with a major field force to surrender in the Civil War. He spent his later years as a college professor in Tennessee.