Statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson were removed Sunday from the limestone pedestals at the University of Texas where they have stood for 82 years.
“This is an iconic moment. It really shows the power of student leadership,” said Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, referring to a Student Government resolution that called for removing the statue of Davis, president of the Confederate states, from its prominent setting on the university’s Main Mall.
The larger-than-life-size Davis statue and the equally imposing statue of Wilson, which stood opposite Davis’s on the mall, were loaded onto a flatbed trailer to be hauled by a pickup to UT’s facilities complex for refurbishing.
The Davis statue will be installed in 18 months or so in UT’s Briscoe Center for American History after the center is renovated, while the statue of the 28th president will be placed at a yet-to-be-decided outdoor location on campus, according to university officials.
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UT announced that it would remove the statues from their limestone pedestals on the Main, or South, Mall after the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans failed to get traction Friday at the state Supreme Court with a last-ditch effort to block the plan.
About 50 people turned out to watch the removal , according to a spokeswoman for the UT Police Department.
Kirk Lyons, the Confederate group’s lawyer, said he would press on with a legal fight to return “Brother Jeff” and “Brother Woodrow,” as he calls them, to the mall. He said UT’s action amounts to “ISIS-style cleansing of history,” a reference to the Islamic State group’s destruction of statues and other cultural artifacts in the Mideast.
When UT President Gregory L. Fenves announced his decision earlier this month to move the statues, he said it was no longer in the university’s best interest to memorialize the Confederate leader on the Main Mall. Because of the Confederacy’s effort to preserve slavery, it had been vandalized numerous times over the years, most recently in June when the words “black lives matter” were painted on its base.
The Wilson statue was removed for symmetry, Fenves told The Texas Tribune.
It took workers about an hour and a half to remove the Davis statue from its limestone pedestal.
Although opposition to the Davis statue surfaced even before it was installed in 1933, the tipping point came this summer with the Student Government resolution, recommendations from an advisory panel and reduced national tolerance for Confederate symbols after the fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina