Jefferson Davis

Credit Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky has altered a statue of Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol, removing a plaque that declared the only president of the Confederacy to be a patriot and a hero.

The plaque adorned a 15-foot marble statue, which sits in a corner of the state's ornate Capitol rotunda just behind a bronze statue of former President Abraham Lincoln. Both men were born in Kentucky.

Advocates have pushed for the Davis statue to be removed from the Capitol for years. Their protests gained momentum following the racially-motivated 2015 murders of nine people at an African-American church in South Carolina and the violent protests last year at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

The removal of an honorific plaque from a statue of Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol has been delayed as officials review whether they have the authority to do so.

In response to public outcry over the statue of the Confederacy’s only president, the Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted earlier this year to remove the plaque that labels Davis as “patriot — hero — statesman.”

State Curator Leslie Nigels says lawyers in Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration are reviewing legislation that authorized the statue’s creation in 1931.

Plaque Declaring Jefferson Davis a 'Hero' to be Removed

Oct 25, 2017
Ryland Barton

A plaque proclaiming Jefferson Davis as a hero and a patriot will be removed from Kentucky's Capitol, the latest effort to alter Confederate monuments across the country following outbreaks of racially motivated violence.

The Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted to remove the plaque, which is attached to a 15-foot-tall (5-meter-tall) marble statue of Davis in the rotunda of the state Capitol. The plaque declares Davis is a "patriot, hero, statesman" and lists his accomplishments in both the United States and Confederate governments. Last month, a committee recommended the state remove the plaque because of its "subjective" language.

Ryland Barton

A panel has unanimously voted to remove a plaque from a statue of Jefferson Davis at the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda that labels the president of the Confederacy as “patriot, hero, statesman.”

African-American leaders have called for the removal of the statue for years and the call was renewed following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

Craig Potts, who chairs the Rotunda Committee of the Historic Property Advisory Commission, said the plaque should be removed because not everyone feels the same way about Davis.

Credit Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky’s NAACP chapter is renewing efforts to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the state capitol rotunda after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“It is an issue that speaks to today’s society and where we are in America in terms of race,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP.

Cunningham said the statue is offensive to African-Americans and that Davis, former president of the Confederate States of America, is falsely regarded as a hero.

“That he was not. He was a traitor to the United States government, aside from the other convictions he had in regard to slavery,” said Cunningham.

Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

An effort is underway in Kentucky to replace a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Capitol Rotunda with a tribute to boxing legend MuhammadAli. 

Lexington attorney and former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller has begun an online petition seeking the change.  Miller says Ali’s recent death has more people talking about his place in history. 

"People have been reminded that he wasn't just a boxer, but indeed made a profound influence on American policy," Miller told WKU Public Radio.  "They've also been reminded that he's a Kentuckian.  He was born here, grew up here, and will rest in peace here."

So far, about 600 Kentuckians have signed the petition which Miller plans to deliver to Governor Matt Bevin and legislative leaders. 

While several lawmakers supported an attempt to remove the Davis statue from the Capitol last summer, the state Historic Properties Commission voted to leave the statue in place.

WKU Public Radio is carrying live coverage of Ali’s memorial service in Louisville Friday. You can hear that coverage from 1:00-3:00 p.m. central, 2:00-4:00 p.m. eastern time.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis will remain in the Kentucky State Capitol building’s rotunda.

The Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted to keep the statue despite calls from Gov. Steve Beshear, Sen. Mitch McConnell, leaders of both legislative chambers, and the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor.

Kentucky NAACP President Raoul Cunningham said that he was disappointed in the vote.

“I don’t think you need a statue of Hitler in the state capitol to discuss the ills of Nazism or the Holocaust," remarked Cunningham.

Calls to remove the statue began after a shooting in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina in late June. The incident prompted many southern states to re-evaluate Confederate symbols on state properties.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Most Kentucky voters support keeping the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol rotunda, according to Bluegrass Poll results released Monday.

The state Historic Properties Advisory Commission on Wednesday will review recently gathered public comments on whether the Davis statue should be removed from the Capitol rotunda, which is considered a place of honor for notable Kentuckians.

In June, top elected officials in Kentucky called for the removal of the statue as state governments across the South reevaluated prominent Confederate icons on state properties. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear called for the historic properties commission — which curates the statues in the rotunda — to seek public input and review the statue “in context of Kentucky’s history.”

On Monday, the Bluegrass Poll showed that 73 percent of Kentucky voters think the statue should stay in the Capitol building; 17 percent said the statue should be moved to a museum, and 10 percent said they were sure.

Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said he was not surprised by the overwhelming support for the statue.

Emil Moffatt

Abraham Lincoln’s place in history is well-defined. He’s the great emancipator, the man who preserved the Union.   

Jefferson Davis’ legacy, however, is a little more complicated.

The two men were born within 120 miles of each other in rural parts of Kentucky.  Today, the Lincoln birthplace in Hodgenville is a National Park, featuring a granite memorial rising above rolling green hills.

“There’s four flights of the steps as you head up to the memorial, said park superintendent Bill Justice. “They are, in their own way, an invitation to go up and go into the memorial itself."

A replica of the austere log cabin in which Lincoln was born sits inside the ornate structure.

“There’s also a beautiful skylight up above there that provides an opportunity for natural light to flow into the building,” said Justice. “It has a very ‘memorial’ feel to it; the beautiful pink granite around the edge, the plaster-finished fixtures on the wall, the florets in the ceiling.  [It’s a] really, really beautiful interior for this memorial.”