Statue of Jefferson Davis is proposed
Confederate group seeks spot near Lincoln statue at Tredegar in Richmond
Tuesday, Jun 10, 2008
By WILL JONES
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
A life-size statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis could stand with the one of Abraham Lincoln at Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is offering to donate a bronze statue of Davis for placement at the National Historic Landmark site to mark this year as the bicentennial of his birth.
The $100,000-plus statue by Lexington sculptor Gary Casteel would help educate the public about the Confederate president and how his family took in a mixed-race orphan and serve as a counter to the Lincoln statue that was dedicated in 2003, said Brag Bowling, a Richmond resident and a board member with the national Southern-heritage group.
"There were two sides of the war," he said.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans fought the Lincoln statue, which depicts him with his son Tad on his visit to the burned-out Confederate capital in 1865. Bowling said the group isn’t trying to cause an uproar but sees a need for historic balance at Tredegar.
"The acceptance of that statue would soothe some feelings of Southerners from a few years ago," he said.
Representatives of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are expected to meet next Tuesday with officials from the American Civil War Center, which controls the Tredegar site through an agreement with its owner, NewMarket Corp.
Museum President Christy S. Coleman said yesterday that it would be inappropriate to comment before the meeting.
"With anything, it’s all about content and intent," she said.
The statue of Davis depicts him standing with his son Joe and with Jim Limber, who was a mixed-race child taken in by the Davis family, according to John M. Coski, historian and library director for The Museum of the Confederacy.
David Ruth, superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, said he expects the statue of Davis to be considered just as the Lincoln statue was when it was offered by the U.S. Historical Society.
Its placement would have to be approved by NewMarket, plus the board of directors for the American Civil War Center. The National Park Service could serve as a consultant in the process.
The now-defunct Richmond Historic Riverfront Foundation controlled the Tredegar property when the Lincoln statue was approved.
Ruth said whether the statue would be accepted at Tredegar could depend on such factors as its design; whether it’s determined that another monument to Davis is needed in Richmond; and whether Tredegar would be the appropriate place. A monument to Davis was erected in 1907 at Monument and Davis avenues.
"I would hope for more discussion than it simply being a counterpoint to Lincoln," he said.
Ruth said the story of Jim Limber’s association with the Davis family could be worth telling, although some details of the relationship aren’t clear.
Bowling said the Sons of Confederate Veterans commissioned the statue with Casteel. The piece is expected to be finished this fall, and it could be placed to mark the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth or in the walkup to 2011 and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.