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Commission On Public Art Hears Input On Confederate Monument

There is still no specific timeline in place for moving the 121-year-old Confederate Monument currently standing near the University of Louisville campus.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville President James Ramsey announcedearlier this year the near 60 foot tall obelisk would be moved from its current site. The granite structure stands to honor Kentuckians who died fighting in the Civil War.

It was built with funds raised by the Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association in 1895 and was thereafter gifted to the city. When first erected, it stood beyond the reaches of the U of L campus. But as time passed, the growing campus came to encircle the monument. Debate raged for years about who owned the ground on which the monument stood.

The call to remove the monument drew initial pushback.

A group headed up by the Sons of Confederate Veterans challenged the move, saying the monument was protected as a designated historical object.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell called the group’s legal arguments “dishonest.”

“There wasn’t a single shred of evidence to support any of their allegations,” O’Connell said. “The entire thing was a sham.”

A judge eventually ruled last month the monument could be moved.

Louisville Metro government officials on Monday held a meeting to get public input on where, exactly, the structure should be sent. The comments will be sent to Fischer for consideration before a decision is made, according to a spokesman for Develop Louisville.

In all, 24 people provided input regarding the relocation of the Confederate Memorial, including State Rep. Steve Riggs and former University of Louisville Board of Trustee member Emily Bingham.

Riggs, a Louisville Democrat, said he'd like the Confederate Monument be moved to Perryville Battlefield State Park. The park is home to a Civil War battlefield where nearly 7,600 Confederate and Union soldiers died.

"If you put it anywhere else, it won't receive any national recognition," he said.

Bingham, a historian, said the monument has historical significance.

"I believe that things in our history are best interpreted and talked about and discussed and not simply eliminated," she said.

Bingham suggested dismantling the monument and preserving the key aspects, including three statues of soldiers. She pointed at the Filson Historical Society, Frazier History Museum and the Speed Art Museum as possible sites to house the preserved elements of the monument.

A group of speakers from Brandenburg, Kentucky voiced strong support to the Public Art Commission about relocating the Confederate Monument to their city.

Gerry Lynn, the Meade County Judge Executive, said such a monument would be a boon for the small city's tourism industry. He also noted the area's historical ties to the Civil War.

"It's a very fitting place," he said.

At least four other people traveled from the Brandenburg area to support the move of the monument to that city from Louisville.

Monica DeCarlo, the executive director of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, said the Confederate Monument is welcome at Civil War battlefields in Nancy, Kentucky and Richmond, Kentucky -- the site of the Mill Springs Battle and Battle of Richmond, respectively.

DeCarlo said such a monument could assist in educating future generations.

John Suttler, a commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the monument could be moved to Paducah, Kentucky, where his group would erect it on privately owned land.

"Complaints about the original location of the monument being on publicly owned property in Louisville appears to be what caused the monument to have to be relocated," he said. "Any relocation to public property elsewhere in Louisville, or other communities, could lead to the same complaints."

Other residents supported moving the monument to Cave Hill Cemetery, where some Confederate soldiers are buried.

Stacy Grimm, a Louisville resident, said Cave Hill could "provide a peaceful setting to honor the dead and preserve history."

Some residents disagreed entirely with the notion of reassembling the Confederate Monument, which is the current directive issued by Mayor Fischer.

Delvan Ramey, a Louisville resident, said the monument glorifies the Confederacy and the notion of reassembly is "repellent."

"This thing should be obliterated," he said.

And Dwayne Bell, from Louisville, said he'd like to see the Confederate Monument moved to "a really deep spot in the river."

Anna Tatman, chair of the Louisville Metro Commission on Public Art, stressed no final decision on the monument's future has yet been decided.

She said it's important the relocation of the monument carry with it the context that can "speak to the history from where it came and the place we are today."

"It's important to us that that monument, wherever it ends up, will spawn conversations about our history and where we'd like to see our future," she said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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