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    The Rotunda in the Capitol Building in Frankfort showcases bronzed or marbled statues of all the fathers of Kentucky’s history, from pioneer surgeon Ephraim McDowell, the “Great Pacificator” and orator Henry Clay, Vice President to Harry Truman Alben Barkley, Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln and, perhaps the most divisive, President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.

    Standing about 15 feet tall on a 5-foot pedestal, the marbled statue of Davis was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for the State Capitol rotunda. Carved from Tennessee marble by Frederick Cleveland Hibbard, who is best known for Confederacy monuments, the statue was financed through private donations and a $5,000 appropriation by the State in 1934. Governor “Happy” Chandler accepted the completed statue in 1936.

    Within the past few years there has been much debate on Jefferson Davis’ place in the Capitol Rotunda. Last year, former state treasurer Jonathan Miller called for Davis’s removal on his Kentucky Sports Radio blog, stating that “the Todd County native who served as President of the Confederate States of America, was an American traitor who deserves vilification, not canonization in marble.” Miller petitioned that Davis be replaced with a mural of “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali (For Muslim law prohibits 3-dimensional representations of living Muslims).

    Now in the aftermath of last week’s deadly shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, the calls to remove the statue have moved to the forefront of Kentucky politics. Images found online of suspected killer Dylann Storm Roof show him professing allegiance to white supremacy and embracing the Confederate battle flag.

    Republican contender for governor Matt Bevin was one of the first to offer support in removing the statue, stating on Tuesday, “It is important never to forget our history, but parts of our history are more appropriately displayed in museums, not on government property.”

    Jack Conway, current Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor stated at a rally in Louisville concerning the statue, “It's an important part of our history. I certainly think the flags ought to come down over South Carolina and Mississippi. Anything that a certain number of our people find offensive, I'd be willing to talk about, that's for sure." A campaign spokesperson for Conway later said that he would want to talk with African-American leaders and members of “Kentucky’s historical community” before moving the statue.

    There is some resistance to the idea of the statue's removal. Louisville Metro Councilman Tom Owen disagrees with moving the Davis statue and the 70 foot tall Confederate Memorial that stands on the University of Louisville campus. “If we start choosing up which monuments and markers this year we're going to tear down, then we'll tear down another set ten years from now," Owen said.

    Citing that Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) also called upon Kentucky to remove the statue. "Well, with regard to my own state, curiously enough, we have a statue of Jefferson Davis in the Capitol in Frankfort," McConnell said. "Davis's sole connection with Kentucky was he was born there and subsequently moved to Mississippi, and Kentucky of course did not secede from the Union. So I think it's appropriate, certainly in Kentucky, to be talking about the appropriateness of continuing to have Jefferson Davis's statue in a very prominent place in our state capital.”

    McConnell added, “Maybe a better place for that would be the Kentucky history museum, which is also in the state capital."

     

    What do you think? Should they remove the statue? And if so, which Kentuckian should replace it? Let us know by commenting below, on Facebook or on Twitter @Louisvillecom.

     

     

    Photos Courtesy of The University of Louisville, Katy Hemard and The Kentucky Capitol Building

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