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Proposal To Replace Statue of Confederate Gen. Smith With One of Mary McLeod Bethune

| August 21, 2017

Mary McLeod Bethune. (Wikimedia Commons)

Mary McLeod Bethune. (Wikimedia Commons)

Amid a national debate about monuments and statues, a South Florida lawmaker renewed his push Monday for a likeness of Mary McLeod Bethune — an educator and civil-rights activist who founded what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University — to represent Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

State Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, proposed a resolution (SCR 184) to have Bethune replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith as one of Florida’s two representatives in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

The proposal is filed for the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January. House members began filing bills for the session Friday, and a proposal dealing with the state’s representation in National Statuary Hall had not been filed as of Monday morning.

The Legislature voted in 2016 to replace a statue of the St. Augustine-born Smith. That vote came during a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols in the wake of the 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. Also, critics said Smith had only a tenuous connection to Florida.

But while lawmakers decided to replace Smith’s statue, they did not reach agreement during the 2017 session about whether Bethune — or somebody else — should represent Florida.

Thurston’s proposal for the 2018 session emerged Monday amid a fierce debate about removing Confederate statues and monuments. That debate has been fueled, in part, by a white nationalist rally this month in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly. A plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee helped spur the rally.

The National Statuary Hall allows each state to be represented by the likenesses of two people. Along with Smith, Florida has long been represented by John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

After lawmakers decided in 2016 to replace the Smith statue, a panel known as the Great Floridians Committee nominated three potential replacements.

Bethune, who was born in 1875 to former slaves in South Carolina and who died in 1955, was the only candidate to receive the unanimous support of the Great Floridians Committee. The other two nominees were Everglades activist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix grocery story founder George Washington Jenkins Jr.

During the 2017 session, however, competing proposals and a House chairman’s concerns about the process stymied efforts to approve a new statue.

A proposal (SCR 1360) backing Bethune passed the Senate but had no counterpart in the House. A separate House effort (HCR 507), pitching a likeness of Douglas, never got a hearing. Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who chaired the subcommittee that declined to hear the Douglas bill, said in June that he had qualms about simply following the lead of the Great Floridians panel.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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16 Responses for “Proposal To Replace Statue of Confederate Gen. Smith With One of Mary McLeod Bethune”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Put it in Ft Lauderdale if anywhere. It would be offensive to replace one Statute with another, so don’t do it. Some people will only be pushed so far. It’s time to stop the nonsense.

  2. Veteran says:

    What a crock!

  3. Frank Temple says:

    Time to stop all of this silliness. NO statues are necessary at all. Most people don’t even know who the honoree is or what they did!

  4. Lou says:

    Have anybody wandered how the Russian and Eastern European societies handled the defunct systems monument issues?
    We could learn from their experience.

  5. kathy roberts says:

    Offensive; an insult to our history. Either leave all the statues alone or have no statues of people at all!

  6. beachcomberT says:

    Wonderful, another drama unfolds in the statue-swapping campaign. I guess no one can argue against Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune as our honoree in the Capitol, and to her credit, she already has been vetted by the Great Floridians Committee, But what will happen to the general’s statue? I hope it is returned to Florida, and some city is willing to display it. Perhaps it can be paired with a statue of his mixed-race “personal valet,” Alexander Darnes. Wikipedia has this to say about the young lad: Alexander H. Darnes (1840 – February 11, 1894) was an African American born into slavery in the same household as Smith in St. Augustine, Florida. Darnes was the mixed-race son of Violet Pinkney, an African-American slave who served in the household of Smith’s parents. (Darnes bears an eerie resemblance to Kirby Smith, according to photos of the two men held by the St. Augustine Historical Society). Darnes served as Smith’s personal valet starting from 1855 and continuing throughout the Civil War. After emancipation and preparatory work, Darnes graduated from Lincoln University and earned his medical degree at Howard University. He settled in Jacksonville, Florida as its first black physician and the second in the state.

  7. Brian says:

    This left-wing PC crap is getting silly….

  8. sb says:

    regarding the suggestion about REPLACING Gen Smith with Bethune? NO, NO and NO!!!!! why cant bethune be placed alongside smith? WHY is everyone trying to wipe out our history???? HOW IS IT HARMING THEM? Come on folks, history is done, civil war is OVER, move on. Stop trying to destroy and replace our statues; THEY CANNOT HARM YOU, they were placed to HONOR someone for their service, their ideas, their help in many different areas of life, they arent zombies….they arent haunting you, stalking you, trying to interfere in your life.
    If you feel these statues, especially SOUTHERN ones/Confederate ones, or whatever the case, then YOU have the problem…in allowing them to do so!!! Get some help. It wont help you to make or force government or powers that be, to destroy or take down the statues.

    Get on with your life, make something of your life, do something honorable or worthwhile; stop trying to change history!!!! There are those of us who love the statues, all of them, because these people did something with their lives to make a difference……why cant you do the same?

  9. Mondexian Mama says:

    Well now, this is sure to get the Trumpsters’ skid-marked undies in a bunch.

  10. Don't you just love the sunshine state lol says:

    What!!!!!! Go put a statue in your own damn yard if it’s that important😂

  11. Concerned says:

    Keep pushing the right buttons cival war will come. I cant wait!

  12. JasonB says:

    We need a statue of our classy First Lady. After all the first ladies who have been college educated lawyers, it’s a refreshing change to have one who’s a college dropout, and gets naked for money.

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. Stan says:

    Maybe Blacks should start making some of their own statues for History and leave past History alone.!! So future generations can take theirs down and see how they like It.

  15. gmath55 says:

    Andrew Jackson owned slaves and on the $20 bill. So, all you statue haters can send me your $20 bills.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. Trying to ‘hide’ history you don’t agree with doesn’t help educate people to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. You have to acknowledge the past, learn from it, and build a better future together. Removing statues is divisive, short sighted, and wouldn’t help. No one is thinking through the long term ramifications of their actions on all sides.

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