Mississippi to restore Jefferson Davis Monument

Published 11:07 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What began as legislation to place a bronze statue of Jefferson Davis on the grounds of the Mississippi Capitol is now a law to restore another monument dedicated to the president of the Confederacy.

Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill Monday that directs state officials to restore the Confederate Monument near the Old Capitol museum, several blocks from the current statehouse in downtown Jackson. The legislation takes effect July 1.

The monument features a life-sized statue of Davis, who spent his last years living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The bill began as an effort to authorize the state to accept a different statue of Davis from the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group’s statue depicts Jefferson holding the hands of two little boys. One was his son, Joe Davis. The other was an African-American boy named Jim Limber, who was adopted by the Davis family.

Lawmakers changed the bill to strip it of any reference to the statue offered by Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said he voted for the bill because it had been changed.

“In its original form, it was offensive to a lot of lawmakers,” said Flaggs, who is black and is from a historic Civil War city.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has been shopping for a home for the Davis statue for more than a year. It was first offered to a Civil War history center in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy. But the Confederate group later rescinded the offer because the center wasn’t sure where the statue would be placed.

Richard Forte, the director of Beauvoir — Davis’ last home, in Biloxi — said on Tuesday he’s still waiting to hear whether the group will accept his offer to take the statue.

“It’s strictly up to the national organization’s executive council to approve it. They have had other requests for the statue from other states,” Forte said.

Larry McCluney of Greenwood, a division commander for the Confederate group, said “it looks like it’s going to go to Beauvoir.” McCluney said he was disappointed lawmakers didn’t consider accepting the statue.

The monument at the Old Capitol museum was dedicated June 3, 1891, with Davis’ widow, Varina, in attendance. The structure is 64 feet tall and includes a life-size statue of Davis, four columns and a statue in Italian marble of a Confederate soldier and gun in parade rest.

Under the bill, the state Department of Archives and History is authorized to restore and renovate the structure that’s fallen into disrepair. The agency can use funds from public and private sources, but the bill doesn’t provide any money.

The agency will spend $95,000 in grant money to renovate the structure, said Jim Woodrick, acting director of historic preservation at the Department of Archives and History.

Woodrick said the monument doesn’t have any structural damage.

Forte said he’s glad the monument will soon be restored.

“We just do what we can to protect the history that’s out there,” Forte said. “Some people don’t like what happened, but history is history.”

The bill is Senate Bill 2325.