UT to relocate Davis statue, keep other Confederate statues

Samantha Ketterer

This story has been updated with additional information.

The Jefferson Davis statue on UT’s Main Mall will be relocated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, UT President Gregory Fenves announced Thursday.

Following a task force’s recommendations to relocate some or all of the statues, Fenves said the Davis statue would be better placed in an educational exhibit at the Briscoe Center.

“While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall,” Fenves said in an email to the University community. “Davis had few ties to Texas; he played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.”

The Woodrow Wilson statue, which is currently placed near the Davis statue, will be relocated elsewhere on campus to “maintain symmetry.” The other statues with Confederate ties on campus — Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John H. Reagan — will remain on the mall.

University spokesman Gary Susswein said  the Davis and Wilson statues could be removed from the mall as soon as this weekend.

“Workers will conduct a site review and prep on Friday and hope to begin moving the two statues from their pedestals beginning Saturday,” Susswein said in an email.

The University has not determined the cost of removing the statues, according to Susswein.

“We don’t have an exact cost, but we guess it will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to move the two statues,“ Susswein said.

  • Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, speaks at a press conference at the Brisco Center Thursday afternoon. Carleton said the Briscoe Center will renovate a dedicated exhibit space for the role of statuary and symbols in American history. Zoe Fu | Daily Texan staff

The statue of the Confederate president was vandalized three times this year. Following the third vandalization in June, Fenves formed a task force to assess the presence of Confederate statues on campus.

While the task force outlined options to also relocate some or all of the statues with ties to the Confederacy, Davis will be the only relocated Confederate statue, according to Fenves. The other statues in question had deep ties to Texas, Fenves said, and Lee’s legacy in particular “should not be reduced to the Civil War.”

In addition, Fenves said the University “will consider placing a plaque on the Main Mall to provide historical context for the remaining statues and for an inscription west of the Littlefield Fountain that pays tribute to the Confederacy and Southern patriotism.”

The six statues and inscription were donated by George Littlefield, and have been the source of controversy over the past semester. UT Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu passed a SG resolution during their campaign in March calling for the removal of the Davis statue.

Rotnofsky and Mandalapu also began a petition to remove the Davis statue after the June shooting of nine black church members in Charleston South Carolina, which renewed conversation about Confederate symbols in the South.

“It’s incredibly exciting this is happening now at this point before the semester starts,” Rotnofsky said. “The University has responded [with a] very positive response, very quick response.”

The Briscoe Center will renovate a dedicated exhibit space for the role of statuary and symbols in American history, according to Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. The exhibit will be complete within the next 18 months.

“The Briscoe Center is well situated to place the historical significance of the Davis statue within a broader context,” Carleton said. “In the near future the Davis statue will be part of a valuable educational exhibit at the Briscoe Center, one that encourages students and other visitors to critically analyze the complicated history of the American nation.”

This story has been updated for accuracy. While James Stephen Hogg's father was a Confederate commander during the Civil War, Hogg did not have direct ties to the Confederacy. He was the 20th governor of Texas.