Following more than a year of complaints from elected officials of all political stripes, a state board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds voted unanimously Friday to remove a controversial Confederate plaque that falsely asserts that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”
The decision comes more than a month after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who chairs the six-member State Preservation Board, called for it in a letter to Executive Director Rod Welsh. State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has led a crusade to get rid of the "Children of the Confederacy Creed" plaque, which was erected in 1959, for more than a year. He has said that the plaque “is not historically accurate in the slightest, to which any legitimate, peer-reviewed Civil War historian will attest.”
Texas House speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans, serve as co-vice chairs on the preservation board under Abbott.
Momentum for removing the plaque has picked up steam in recent weeks. Bonnen, the newly next House speaker, previously called for its removal, saying the plaque was "historically inaccurate.” And in perhaps the most explicit call from a statewide official yet, Land Commissioner George P. Bush tweeted that "these displays belong in museums, not our state capitol." Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, who was tapped by Bonnen to sit on the board Thursday, has also spoken in favor of the plaque's removal.
It's not immediately clear where the plaque will go next or when it will be removed. A spokesman for the board said details are still being worked out. The motion put forth by Leach Friday, which lawmakers approved, will remove the plaque "from its current location at the Capitol."
“If I had a sledgehammer in my office, I’d go up there right now and remove it," Leach said. "But I’m told that’s not necessary as it will be removed very soon.”
In a statement after Friday's vote, Johnson said he was glad the board voted unanimously to remove the plaque but added the caveat that "none of us in state government should be high-fiving each other or patting ourselves on the back today."
"The plaque should never have been put up by the Legislature in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken 60 years to remove it. And that’s on Republicans and Democrats alike, to be perfectly honest," Johnson wrote.
Disclosure: The State Preservation Board has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.