Confederate Statues Removed From University of Texas Overnight

The statues of four people with ties to the Confederacy, including Gen. Robert E. Lee, were being removed from their pedestals on the UT-Austin campus Sunday night, the university announced.
by | August 21, 2017 AT 11:20 AM

By Claire Z. Cardona

The statues of four people with ties to the Confederacy, including Gen. Robert E. Lee, were being removed from their pedestals on the UT-Austin campus Sunday night, the university announced.

University President Greg Fenves said in a written statement that he made the decision to take down the statues following talks with student leaders, faculty, staff and alumni in light of the deadly clash in Charlottesville, Va.

The statues of Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John H. Reagan and former Gov. James Stephen Hogg are being removed. Three of those -- Lee, Johnston and Reagan -- will be added to the collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History for "scholarly study," Fenves said.

Johnston was a general in the Texas, U.S. and Confederate armies, and Reagan was the postmaster general of the Confederacy.

The statue of Hogg, who served as governor from 1891 to 1895 and was the son of a Confederate general, will be considered for re-installation at another campus location, he said.

Removal of the statues began about 11 p.m. with no advance notice for public safety reasons, university spokesman Gary Susswein said.

The area was cordoned off Sunday night and police officers stood watch as crews worked. The removal is expected to take several hours and should be completed Monday, he said.

The university removed the statues of Jefferson Davis and President Woodrow Wilson in 2015 following a task force formed in the wake of the June 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

The four statues to be removed were also named in the task force report, which presented a series of options including installing materials to put the statues in context or removing them.

The Davis statue was taken down following months of controversy after the Sons of confederate Veterans group sued to prevent its removal.  The statue has since been restored and is being housed at the Briscoe Center in an exhibit.

The Wilson statue remains in storage.

The statues were commissioned partly through the use of a $3 million gift to the university from Major George W. Littlefield, a Confederate Army officer and member of the UT Board of Regents.

The statues were taken down together because they were all part of a single gift to the university, Susswein said.

Last year, the university quietly removed an inscription praising the Confederacy from the George Littlefield Fountain, an anchor of the South Mall. The inscription dedicated it to "the men and the women of the Confederacy who fought with valor and suffered with fortitude that states rights be maintained."

Thousands rallied Saturday night in Dallas calling for an end to the Confederate statues in the city and white supremacy.

The rally, one of several nationwide, was in response to the deadly clash last week between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Virginia that was sparked after the city announced plans to remove a statue of Lee. A woman was killed and several others injured when a man drove through the crowd of counterprotesters.

The events of Charlottesville "make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," Fenves said.

Fenves said the history and cultural significance of the status on the UT campus are compromised by what they stand for.

"Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans," Fenves said. "That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotryhe University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university's core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres."

(c)2017 The Dallas Morning News