Florida Ditches Capitol’s Confederate Statue For Civil Rights Leader

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

Florida’s state senate voted unanimously Wednesday to replace a Confederate general statue in the U.S. Capitol with that of a civil rights leader.

State senators voted 37-0 to replace a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with a monument dedicated to civil rights activist and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, reported Los Angeles Times.

“Dr. Bethune’s life and values represent the best of Florida,” said Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democratic senator and one of the bill’s sponsors, according to Los Angeles Times. “Voting for this legislation underscores that Floridians recognize our rich history and celebrate our diversity.”

Each state boasts two statues in National Statuary Hall; air conditioning inventor John Gorrie is Florida’s other representative.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who claims to be descended from a Confederate soldier, initially voted against SB 472 when it was in its committee stage, but changed his vote after the implementation of an amendment that would return the Smith statue to Florida’s Department of State.

“It’s always been a sticking point to me that we don’t need to bestow dishonor in order to honor,” said Baxley.

Baxley, who resigned his command May 26, 1865, was one of the last Confederate generals to surrender in the Civil War. His replacement, Bethune, advised former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped black Americans register to vote during the Jim Crow era, and founded what would later be called Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

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