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Plaque Honoring Jefferson Davis Removed at Kentucky Capitol

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.The Historic Properties Advisory Commission, which governs the statues in the rotunda, voted in 2015 to keep the statue in place as a symbol of the state's divided past. Kentucky never joined the Confederacy, but it had a number of Confederate sympathizers who attempted to set up a Confederate government in the western part of the state during the Civil War.

Last year, the commission voted to alter the statue by removing a plaque that says Davis was a "Patriot-Hero-Statesman." The commission then delayed that decision so a lawyer from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration could make sure the commission had authority to remove the plaque.

Officials removed the plaque on March 11, according to Leslie Nigels, director of the Division of Historic Properties. A report from Nigels during the commission's meeting on Thursday said removing the plaque is consistent with the commission's obligation to provide "an objective, balanced, and educational display."

The Lincoln statute was erected in 1911. The Davis statute came in 1936 after a fundraising campaign by the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the height of the Jim Crow era, when segregation laws proliferated throughout the South.

The original plan, according to the Kentucky Historical Society, was for the Lincoln statue to face north while the Davis statue faced South. The plan was abandoned because the statues were too heavy to be that close together.

The plaque in question was installed in 1975. It was a gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and former Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler was on hand to dedicate it.

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