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McDaniel Legislation Would Remove Davis Statue, Replace with Carl Brashear

This story has been updated to reflect that after its publication, Governor Andy Beshear announced that state commission responsible for the Davis statue to meet on Friday and vote to remove it.

A Kenton County Republican pre-filed legislation this week to remove the statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis from the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort.

His idea is to replace that Kentucky native's statue with that of another: famed American sailor Carl Brashear.

State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) said that he is currently unsure whether he is to have support within his Republican caucus. "I'm optimistic that we will have the majority of the caucus," he said.

"The fact is, first and foremost, I don't find anything surrounding Jefferson Davis to look up to or to be aspirational towards," McDaniel told The River City News on Wednesday. "Jefferson Davis didn't claim Kentucky in the first place, he claimed Mississippi. Jefferson Davis chose the losing and secessionist side in the Civil War that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and the rotunda is a place of honor and it should be people we want the citizens of Kentucky to look up to and I don't think (Davis) is up to that standard."

McDaniel's action follows Governor Andy Beshear's reiteration last week that he also believes that the Davis statue should be removed.

On Thursday, Beshear announced that he asked the state's Historic Properties Advisory Commission to meet on Friday to vote to remove the state from the rotunda. “It is long past due to remove a statue that some kids who come into this capitol, a capitol that’s supposed to be the people’s house and there for everybody, see as a symbol that they don’t matter," Beshear said.

Past efforts to remove the statue have been stifled by the state's historic properties commission, though a plaque that, in part, described Davis as a patriot and a hero was removed. Across the country, as protests against racial injustice, particularly police brutality against black people, continue, there is also heightened awareness and reconsideration of monuments to historical figures with connections to the Confederacy or other racist pasts.

McDaniel suggested that the Davis be moved to the Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort or the Jefferson Davis Historic Site in Christian County.

The legislation announced publicly on Thursday would include a $500,000 appropriation to cover the removal and the installation of a new statue, though the new statue would have to be placed out for bid. McDaniel also notes that the Davis statue could be removed sooner than the next time legislation could be acted upon in Frankfort, which would be early next year when the General Assembly returns for its 30-day session.

Carl Brashear's life was portrayed in the 2000 film Men of Honor in which he was played by actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. Brashear was the first African-American master diver in the U.S. Navy after growing up in poverty as a sharecropper in his native LaRue and Hardin counties. He lost a leg in the 1966 "Palomares incident", when he and others in the U.S. military went looking for and found a lost hydrogen bomb.

"He embodies everything we want people to look up to in life," McDaniel said of Brashear. "He was a career military person. He overcame adversity in every phase of his life: discrimination, disability, poverty. He served with honor and broke down barriers, and that is the kind of person that should be honored in the highest of places."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo via Legislative Research Commission