Dallas officials still don’t know what to do with the Robert E. Lee statue they removed from the outskirts of the city in 2017. They’re going to have an even harder time determining the ultimate fate for Dallas’ massive Confederate War Memorial in the heart of downtown, which is set to be removed following a 11-4 City Council vote on Wednesday, Corbett Smith reports for the Dallas Morning News.
Those who opposed removal had pushed for a plan to add a display near the monument about slavery and the Civil War, reports Ken Kalthoff for NBC Dallas/Fort Worth. But the Council ultimately concluded the monument was “a non-contributing structure for the historic overlay district.”
Instead, the Council is proposing a $480,000 plan to remove and store the monument. It won’t be an easy task. The hulking monument features a 65-foot-tall obelisk at its center topped with a Confederate soldier. Flanking the obelisk at its corners are life-size statues of Confederate States of America Generals Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Sidney Johnston and CSA President Jefferson Davis.
The Confederate War Memorial was erected by the Dallas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Old City Park in 1897. It stood there until 1961 when it was moved to its current home across the street from City Hall in Pioneer Cemetery due to construction on R.L. Thornton Freeway.
The decision to remove it is the culmination of years of debate and discussion about the propriety of the city’s Confederate relics fueled by the violence in Charlottesville, where rallies staged by white nationalists over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in the summer of 2017 left one counterprotester dead.
In the aftermath, a nationwide conversation was launched about what to do with public monuments to the Confederacy. A citizen task force was established later that August to determine the fate of Dallas’ Confederate monuments, and the City Council voted to remove its statue to Lee that September. The Confederate War Memorial’s fate was initially set to be decided in April of 2018, but the Council delayed its vote following backlash by conservative political groups over the removal of the Lee statue, according to Smith of Dallas Morning News.
The Council’s decision to remove the memorial isn’t binding. The Dallas Landmark Commission still needs to review and approve the plan, and there’s a chance the issue could be appealed and brought back to City Council by the Dallas Plan Commission, as the monument and Pioneer Cemetery are both considered historic. Preservation Dallas, for its part, argued the removal would set a “dangerous precedent,” according to Smith.
Even if the issue should make its way back to Council, Kalthoff of NBC Dallas/Fort Worth reports the strong majority vote on Wednesday makes it unlikely the city won’t move forward with its plans.
“We have to acknowledge the sins of the past, and what kind of Dallas do we want going forward,” says Mayor Pro Tem Casey Thomas. “Today is not unfinished business. It’s finishing the business that we started.”