In a press briefing last week about COVID-19 and the protests in Louisville — now centered around the murder of David McAtee at the hands of law enforcement when they fired on a crowd of protesters and the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times when police broke down her door to execute a search warrant on her apartment in the early hours of March 13 — Gov. Andy Beshear was asked a question about the giant statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, standing sentry in the Capitol Rotunda.
“I believe the statue of Jefferson Davis is a symbol that divides us. Even if there are those who think it’s a part of history, there should be a better place to put it in historical context," Beshear said. "I don’t think it should be in the Capitol Rotunda.”
The full-length marble statue of Davis stands about 15-feet tall and was financed through private donations and a $5,000 appropriation by the state in 1934. The chillingly white Davis made his debut in 1936 and was erected "under the auspices of" the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Also in the rotunda is a 14-foot tall bronze statue of President Abraham Lincoln.
Davis was the president of the Confederate States from 1862 to 1865 — as in the president of the Southern states that literally decided to secede from the rest of the country and start a Civil War because they believed in
"states rights" that black people were property.
When asked if he had the power to remove the statue, Beshear said, "We're looking at that."
Then he added, "Right now, seeing so much pain in our state and across our country, can't we at least realize that in so many of our fellow Kentuckians, people that — again, we're talking about compassion in terms of COVID, we ought to have compassion for all pain — can't we understand in the very least that it is so hurtful to them and doesn't that at least justify it not sitting where it does right now?"
And it is now official that the statue will be removed based on a vote just taken by the Historic Properties Advisory Commission. Gov. Beshear asked the commission to hold a special meeting to vote on the removal.
During the special meeting today, the committee voted 11-1 to remove the statue. The one nay — Brandon Wilson — said he came on the board with the intent to "protect history" and not the intent to "remove history," and that he understands that it's "tough history," but that everyone in the United States has tough history.
During a press conference this week, Beshear said if the statue were to be removed, its empty space in the rotunda could be replaced by another statue, rotating statues or left as extra room.