Confederate general statue draws opposition
The Edmund Kirby statue is no longer welcome in Lake County. So what happens now?

Gen.+Kirby+Smith
Smith's statute “represents hate, hurt and the separation of families to the citizens of Mount Dora.”

Mayors from across Lake County want Gov. Ron DeSantis to prevent the statue of a Confederate general that has represented Florida in the nation’s capital for nearly a century from being displayed in their community.

Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone became the latest Mayor to sign a letter opposing the plan to bring the 9-foot bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to the Lake County Historical Society and Museum in Tavares.

“The bitter irony is the proposed location is a museum located in the same building where 70 years ago the Groveland Four had their lives and reputations ruined,” the letter said. “The decision to move this statue was made by a small group who neither answers to or represents the public. We eight mayors, represent 146,165 residents.”

DeSantis and the state Cabinet in January gave long-sought posthumous pardons to four black men, known as the “Groveland Four,” who in 1949 were accused of raping a white woman in Lake County.

Smith’s statue has represented Florida in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol since the 1920s. It is being replaced by a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, a move that lawmakers approved in 2018.

A state panel last year considered proposals for relocating the Smith statue and backed a plan to move it to the Lake County museum.

Representatives for DeSantis didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Laurel Lee, said Department of State officials had not received the letter from the Lake County Mayors.

The letter, pushed by Tavares Mayor Troy Singer, has also been supported by the Mayors of Clermont, Eustis, Groveland, Leesburg, Mascotte and Minneola.

Museum Curator Bob Grenier, who has played a key role in the effort to bring the Smith statue to the county, could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

Grenier told the Daily Commercial in Leesburg that relics allow the museum to fulfill its mission of preserving and educating the public, with the statue to be included among veteran and military artifacts.

“Our mission is to preserve history and relics so that future generations can learn from them,” Grenier told the Daily Commercial. “There is no racial bias amongst the individuals running the museum.”

Mount Dora City Council members, who had earlier approved a resolution against the statue, noted during their meeting Tuesday that a protest march is planned for Aug. 10 in Tavares.

The resolution previously approved by the Mount Dora City Council said Smith has no connection to their community and his statute “represents hate, hurt and the separation of families to the citizens of Mount Dora.”

Smith was born in St. Augustine but had few ties to Florida as an adult. As commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi, Smith was considered the last general with a major field force to surrender.

DeSantis sent a formal request July 10 to the architect of the U.S. Capitol to substitute the Bethune statue for the Smith likeness.

As part of DeSantis’ request, he noted that the Smith statue would be relocated to the Lake County museum as a Florida Department of State exhibition and long-term loan.

Each state is allowed two statues in the national hall. Florida’s other statue is of John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

Bethune, who will become the first African American woman honored by a state in the national hall, founded what became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and later worked as an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt.

The 9-foot marble statue of Bethune, under construction in Italy, is expected to arrive at the nation’s capital in 2020.

State lawmakers voted in 2016 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. They decided in 2018 to make Bethune the replacement.

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Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Jim Turner

Jim Turner is a Capitol reporter for the News Service of Florida, providing coverage on issues ranging from transportation and the environment to Legislative and Cabinet politics, which are some of the areas he worked in 20 years with TCPalm in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Jim grew up in Millburn, New Jersey, where he started his journalism career providing weekly reports on the high school soccer team --- of which he was a member--- to the local Millburn Item. Jim received degrees in journalism and history from High Point University in North Carolina.


26 comments

  • Seber Newsome III

    July 18, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    The racists who oppose anything to do with Confederate Heritage, always say “put it in a museum”, but that is just a ruse. When a statue is going to go in a museum, they say oh no, not that museum. They need to grow up and act like adults. I was there at the Lake County Historical Museum when the vote was held months ago, for the board of directors. Those who tried a hostile takeover over the board were overwhelmingly whites with white guilt. It was embarrassing to listen to them cry like spoiled brats. Middle aged white adults acting like spoiled children. This is what the socialist left is like. Put the statue in the Museum, and if you do not want to go to the special room it is in, then dont go in their to see it, problem solved!

      • Southern rocker

        July 20, 2019 at 5:32 pm

        I think it sucks that Florida don’t have balls to stand up for our southern heritage I’m very disappointed at southern people for not fighting back.so people want to cry about my southern heritage can go to hell and need to get rid of all milk name streets

  • Brian

    July 18, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    The bitter irony is it’s all Democrats who hate history. The progressives hate history period. If it hurts your feelings remove it, oh well how else does one learn? Dems tried to take over the Lake County Historical Museum and that didn’t work. So now the local Democratic elected officials are opposing the statue. Cultural Marxism in Lake County.

    • JOHN B THAYER

      July 19, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      I will never apologize for our past because the present and the future are and will be built upon it.

  • Lola Sanchez

    July 19, 2019 at 8:25 am

    I’m so sick and tired of all these “he didn’t have many ties” lies. As a single man who went away to a military school out of state (there weren’t public schools back then), then going to West Point (pretty far from Florida) and then joining the US Army as active duty(serving out west and in Mexican War), he always called St. Augustine home, going their during leave and wanting to return there after the end of his military career, but there were not JOBS. Sound familiar? Instead of disparaging this exemplary military man, Floridans would do well to embrace him. Shame on Rick Scott, the RINO Republican legislature who joined hands with Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Kathy Castor to demand his disgraceful removal. And shame on BC for becoming pawns in this war on American veterans and history. Mrs. Bethune has many observances including a very prominent statue in Washington, DC and in her home State of South Carolina. Shame on all complicit in this travesty.

    • Roy

      July 20, 2019 at 12:59 am

      The true racists are the people who want to destroy American History – Slavery has been around since the beginning of time not invented in America nor the Confederacy

  • Eric Nix

    July 19, 2019 at 9:39 am

    These liberal morons need to be shut down for good.

    • Brenda morris

      July 19, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      Leave our history alone ok if u take that down take down Martin LutherKing Down this is Bull crap.Leave our Statues alone u idiots

  • Donna garner

    July 19, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Bull crap. There is nothing racist about any of this. And I am sick and tired of all this hate from the liberal’s.Who are by far more, racists, hatefilled, division and discord people than anyone else. Just look at those four “ladies” in office spewing all the hate for our country. They are the one’s that are the problem.These men that represent the Confederate War are Veterans and should be honored! Period. Liberal’s and their hate and lies.. Disgusting! Leave the Statues up!! Honor them they are part of America’s history.

    • Angela Fickert

      July 19, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      HELL YEAH!!!!! THEY NEED TO STOP TRYING TO ERASE HISTORY!!!!!

  • Dave

    July 19, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Liberals are definitely the true racists.If they would pick up a history book they would understand that not all Southerners owned slaves nor did they agree with the institution of slavery. Only rich plantation owners had slaves and many of them felt bad about it but they knew no other way to make their plantation survive. The average poor white southern boy grew up alongside poor black southern boys and the last thing he wanted was for his friend to be sold into slavery. The average confederate soldier was fighting for his state, his family and his land which he told would be confiscated from the “evil North.” He was not fighting to defend slavery. Liberals need to read about their history before making accusations.

  • Dave

    July 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    All Civil War soldiers North and South were Americans and have the right to be honored by their hometowns, families or States. They may have had their disagreements but that is exactly what these liberals are doing.. disagreeing with other Americans. How is this any different than disagreements of 150 years ago? You cannot change history.

  • William Kendy

    July 19, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    The statue should be installed. The writer, in my opinion, is prejudiced and not professional in terms of editorial integrity.

    Probably a find fellow…but not objective…slanted piece.

  • Curtis Berndt

    July 19, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    The Statue should be installed with a plaque explaining the FACTS of the general. He was a traitor, he led troops in attacking the U.S. He was a slave owner who fought in a war to keep slavery as an institution. Tell the people who view the statue the TRUTH, none of this “Lost Cause” B.S. The Confederacy committed treason, pure and simple, tell the TRUTH. The Civil War was fought to keep slavery going, tell the TRUTH. The Confederate leaders should have been arrested, tried and hung for treason, they were no different than Benedict Arnold. Tell the TRUTH. If you want your statues then tell the TRUTH about the Confederacy.

    • Keith

      July 19, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Indians owned Slaves, Can’t have an Indian statue. Blacks owned Slaves. Still do! Learn some real history not this Marxist crap you been indoctrinated with. The CSA followed the Constitution and seceded legally your sweet Abraham Lincoln violating the Constitution and attacked a sovereign Nation called the Confederate States of America learn some real true history

    • Bob Garvey

      July 19, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      No treason…everything was legal and constitutionally valid. Our leaders are not stopping with the Confederacy They will next start disposing of our American icons, heros and statues. Just watch…and prepare.

    • Capt. Phil Walters

      July 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      Show me ANY fact or convictions of TREASON of ANY Confederate. What the South did was legal under the Constitution unless you are also of the opinion “Might makes right.”
      You OPINION is based upon bias, ignorance & HATE, not historical facts…..

  • Bernie Cyrus

    July 19, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    To prove his point, Du Bois ( NAACP founder) included this quote from a speech Lincoln delivered in 1858 in Charleston, Ill.:
    “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”….How many Lincoln statues you got DEsantis
    .
    Say what? The Lincoln of 1858 was a very long way from becoming the Great Emancipator!

    So which was the real Lincoln, the benevolent countenance hanging on the walls of black people’s homes, the Man Who Freed the Slaves, or this man whom Du Bois was quoting, who seemed to hate black people?
    In the collective popular imagination, Abraham Lincoln—Father Abraham, the Great Emancipator—is often represented as an island of pure reason in a sea of mid-19th-century racist madness, a beacon of tolerance blessed with a cosmopolitan sensibility above or beyond race, a man whose

  • Toby Howle

    July 20, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Don’t want to see it don’t look at it. People who want it moved is the ones with the problem. Why can’t people see That? It’s just a way to keep them entertained. No problem for 100yrs. A problem now?

  • Anthony Geremonte

    July 20, 2019 at 9:11 am

    This is a disgrace. Leave history alone. You cannot change it and must definitely continue teaching about it to show how we’ve progressed as a country and it’s rich history. I as a USMC veteran stand behind my country and my president till the day I die. 🇺🇸 leave history alone. You can put a curtain up or sweep stuff under the carpet. Guess what it still happened and can’t change it.

  • Capt. Phil Walters

    July 20, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    Show me ANY fact or convictions of TREASON of ANY Confederate. What the South did was legal under the Constitution unless you are also of the opinion “Might makes right.”
    You OPINION is based upon bias, ignorance & HATE, not historical facts…..

  • Capt. Phil Walters

    July 20, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Socialist Progressive Demoncrats along with their ANTIFA (Communist) and Racist BLM & NAACP allies have forced this issue onto our peaceful society with lies, slander and an agenda to DIVIDE Americans rather than UNITE Americans for a more perfect Union.
    They are the HATERS, LIARS and Slanderers CAUSING & FORCING the issue as most AMERICANS OVERWHELMINGLY prefer to learn from history by LEAVING IT ALONE and getting on with their lives in our prosperous & peaceful society.
    As to the “MAYORS” of lake county representing 100,000+ folks, did you take a VOTE on the ISSUE or stretching YOUR WEAK & BIAS OPINION? I’m of the opinion you are Politically Grandstanding because YOU are Ignorant, hateful and SPINELESS.

  • Gary Daniel

    July 20, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Just the fact that it was in the Capitol is enough reason for it to be put in the museum as the one that the other replaced. No matter what his life’s connection to Florida. He’s a son of Florida and his statue used to be in the Capitol. No reason to protest. What does the 4 Black Guys have to do with Kirby Smith?
    Put it in the museum.

Comments are closed.


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