HELP US KEEP REPORTING. DONATE TO ORLANDO WEEKLY PRESS CLUB.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rick Scott says he'll approve replacing Florida's Confederate statue with Mary McLeod Bethune

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 11:14 AM

click image PHOTO VIA NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Gov. Rick Scott plans to sign a bill that would lead to a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune replacing the likeness of a Confederate general as a representative of Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

The Florida House voted 111-1 on Tuesday to support placing the statue of Bethune in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, replacing Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, cast the only dissenting vote.



A short time after the vote, Scott’s office announced he intends the sign the measure into law.

Rep. Patrick Henry, a Daytona Beach Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he was “proud to be member of the House” as it was “poised to make history.”

Bethune, who would 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.

Henry, who attended Bethune-Cookman, said Bethune is considered the “mother of the civil rights movement” at the university.

“Dr. Bethune was a revolutionary woman, she transcended race and social economic status,” Henry said. “Her life is an example of what happens when you refuse to accept failure as an option.”

The vote came with students from the university in the House gallery. The university has offered to pay for the statue.

The Senate backed the proposal (SB 472) in a 37-0 vote on Jan. 31.

Smith was born in St. Augustine but had few ties to the state 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. He has represented Florida in the National Statuary Hall since 1922.

Florida's other representative in the hall is John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning. Each state is allowed two representatives. The bill requires the Smith statue to be acquired and displayed by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

After voting against the proposal when it appeared before the House Government Accountability Committee in October, Fant said the Legislature shouldn't be involved in the statue-removal process.

“Messing with statues is a fool's errand for the Legislature,” Fant, who is running for attorney general this year, said at the time. “I don't think we should even remove any of the statues that we have, including the ones that they're moving to replace here. … It's one of those issues that I think truly creates division within communities, this whole statue-removal business, and I don't want to be part of all that.”

The proposal has also drawn opposition from a group called Save Southern Heritage, which was formed in 2015 in response to “knee-jerk Anti-Southern institutionalized bullying.”

The Legislature voted in 2016 to replace the Smith statue 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.

But lawmakers couldn’t agree last year on who should replace Smith. Lawmakers considered three possibilities —- Bethune, Everglades activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix grocery store founder George Washington Jenkins, Jr. —- submitted by a panel known as the Great Floridians Committee.

Democrats' demands for a replacement grew last summer after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly. A plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee helped spur the Charlottesville rally.

Tags: , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation