Attacks on the city’s history are not new

Fanatical history deniers are succeeding in rewriting Jacksonville’s past by tearing down statues and monuments, but efforts didn’t just begin recently.

In 1969, there was an attempt by the late Lex Hester, one of the chief architects of consolidation, to move the Confederate soldier statue in Hemming Park. It ended with a luncheon with Hester and other proponents and lawyer Dean Boggs, then head of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Boggs, with great Southern grace, smiled and nodded and agreed as the proponents laid out their case and then, at the end of the meal, gently took the hand of one lady and said, “But daughter, the statue will stay.”

And it did, for about 50 more years.

There also is history concerning the two cannons that were next to the Confederate soldier statue, which was moved several years ago in the dead of night by a guy named Lenny Curry, after it had stood for more than a century.

The cannons actually made the park a remembrance of the Civil War rather than just a tribute to the Old South. The cannons were placed in the park in 1905 by the Navy and were of a type called Dahlgren cannons, developed by the Union Navy and used during the conflict.

In the 1970s, the old “he coon” Bob Sikes, a long-time politician from the Panhandle, wrote to City Hall asking if he could have the cannons for a project he had.

On the advice of someone on the mayor’s staff I’m not going to name, the letter was torn up. Sikes apparently did not pursue it and retired from Congress the next year.

Another attempt was made to move the Confederate statue during the ‘70s but it came to naught also. It would have been moved to what was then Confederate Park, now Springfield Park, which was the site of a reunion of Confederate soldiers in 1914 and until Mayor Donna Deegan had it removed was the location of a monument to widows and children.

Maybe Democrats don’t like widows and children. But they do like rewriting history, Big Brother style. It fits the liberal party’s effort to divide America by race in the hope of getting the votes of people of one race.

It is cruel, heartless and mean-spirited but it is what politics has become over the past 50 years and it bodes ill for the future. History, tradition and American ways of life are being trod under the heels of those lusting for power.

Fortunately, Florida legislators are working on a fix. A bill filed by Rep. Dean Black, R-Jacksonville, would prohibit local governments from tearing down statues and monuments.

The Historical Monuments and Memories Protection Act makes historical monuments the responsibility of the Secretary of State and State Historic Preservation Officer.

The proposed bill says, “The Legislature finds that an accurate and factual history belongs to all Floridians and future generations and the state has an obligation to protect and preserve such history. Accordingly, the state preempts any local elected officials who may be swayed by undue influence by groups who may feel offended or hurt by certain actions in the history of the state or the nation.”

At its first committee hearing the Senate version of the bill was approved and it has been made a proposed committee substitute bill in the House, generally an indication that the leadership is supporting the measure.

“We’re trying to stop the madness,” Black said. He predicted a heated debate Tuesday in the State Affairs Committee. “This is going to cancel the cancel culture.”

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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