State’s ‘Johnny Reb’ general returning home

Filed under FLORIDA, FRONT PAGE, NEWS

BY JIM SAUNDERS
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith is headed to retirement.

160226_front04The Florida House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would lead to removing a statue of Smith from the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Gov. Rick Scott indicated he likely will sign the bill (SB 310), which had already passed the Senate.

“Just because those who we honor are replaced by future people doesn’t mean that the person who was there previously is any less brave or any less valiant,” House sponsor Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, said. “We just continue to add to the history of Florida. We’re certainly not trying to forget the history of Florida.”

Two statues apiece
Each state is allowed two statues in the National Statuary Hall, and Florida is represented by statues of Smith and John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning. Under the bill, a committee would recommend three prominent Floridians as potential replacements for Smith, and the Legislature would pick one whose statue would be placed in the hall.

Florida donated the Gorrie statue to the National Statuary Hall in 1914 and followed eight years later with the Smith statue, according to a Senate staff analysis. The bill would not affect the statue of Gorrie, an Apalachicola physician in the 19th Century.

The staff analysis said Smith taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before later becoming a Confederate general. He surrendered the last Confederate force during the Civil War, the analysis said.

National debate
The effort to replace the Smith statue has moved forward amid a national debate about symbols of the Confederacy. That debate came after a man with white supremacist views was accused of killing nine African-American worshippers at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C, in June.

Diaz said he has received threats and faced derogatory comments about his Cuban heritage because of his sponsorship of the measure.

House members voted 83-32 to approve the bill, which passed the Senate in a 33-7 vote.

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