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Rebel yell: Confederate statue bill moves to full Senate

Legislation to replace a statue of a Confederate general representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol is heading to the Senate floor.

The bills (SB 472, SCR 184), which cleared their final committee Thursday, would replace the likeness of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

“Dr. Bethune received the unanimous vote of the members of the Great Floridians Committee during the selection process for a new representative,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, the Broward County Democrat sponsoring the effort.

“And so I was extremely encouraged with the similar vote today in the Senate Rules Committee,” he added. “It’s time we installed in Washington a statue that not only reflects Florida’s diversity, but the accomplishments on which we pride ourselves as a state. Dr. Bethune’s replica will stand as a shining example of both.”

Identical legislation is currently moving through committees in the House, Thurston said.

Related legislation died last Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of Bethune to replace Smith; another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place.

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

The move to replace Smith’s statue came after renewed debate about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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