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Jacksonville’s Lame Duck Mayor Rips Down More Historic Monuments in Final Days

Lenny Curry promised in 2020 that he would remove all vestiges of the Confederacy in the city. Now his administration is making false statements after he ordered the takedown of a monument in the middle of the night.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — One of Florida’s oldest and most conservative metropolitan cities has a Republican mayor to thank for the undemocratic removal of its most prominent historical markers.

Around 3 am on Mother’s Day, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had the city take down what remained of a 62-foot monument in James Weldon Johnson Park – a historic park outside City Hall in downtown Jacksonville. Curry circumvented the City Council and appears to have violated an ordinance detailing how Confederate monuments were to be handled.

“He violated the city's budget by removing the remnants of the Hemming statue,” asserted Blake Harper, one of the most vocal opponents of removing Confederate monuments in Jacksonville.

The 2022-2023 budget requires that the City host “community conversations” prior to any further actions toward monument removal. These public conversations have not yet been held.

“The budget is law,” Harper continued. “It has the operation of law, it’s an ordinance. And he violated all of that. He was dishonest in talking about it because he knew he violated it.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to several requests for comment.


On June 9, 2020, Curry took down a marble and bronze statue of a Confederate soldier that stood atop the Hemming Plaza monument. Two months later the City further stripped the park of its Confederate heritage and renamed it after civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson.

Curry had the statue and plaques removed from the monument without public notice and under the cover of darkness at 4 am, just hours before a BLM protest was set to take place outside City Hall. He promised the angry protesters that he would erase all historical markers related to the Confederacy, including a sign that marks a burial ground for soldiers who died in battle.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry marches with Black Lives Matters protesters on June 9, 2020. (City of Jacksonville)

Civil War veteran Charles Hemming donated the statue to the state of Florida in 1898 and many local residents – including Hemming’s great-great-nephew – believe Curry’s directive was unlawful.

“The mayor has no legal way to remove the statue without the state saying so,” Elwood Hemming told News4Jax the day after the monument came down. “The statue was actually given to the state of Florida. It was not given to the city of Jacksonville, so the order has to come down for the state.”

The Confederate monument in Hemming Plaza was erected in 1898 to unite Americans after the Civil War, but it is causing division a century later (public domain).

On May 15 – with only seven weeks left before leaving office – Curry again moved without public notice to take down the towering 50-foot pedestal that stood in the center of the park. Just like before, the work began under the cover of darkness in the early morning hours.

“He made a promise he had no authority to make,” Harper said. “Now he’s trying to figure out a way to take the statues down and fulfill his promise.”


The City issued a statement on May 15 that said the demolition was part of an approved renovation covered in the budget, but it turns out that wasn’t true.

Hours later, Curry’s top aide Brian Hughes repeated this explanation during a public committee meeting. After City Council members Randy DeFoor and Al Ferraro pressed him for details, Hughes said that he “misspoke” and that the money actually came from a state grant.

Hughes then claimed that the City Council approved a resolution back in January 2021 that ordered the pedestal be returned to the Hemming family.

DeFoor quickly pointed out that the resolution was referring to the statute and plaques – which had already been removed – not the pedestal. Hughes and Deputy General Counsel Mary Staffopoulos both corrected DeFoor, insisting that the pedestal was included in the resolution.

But DeFoor was right. Nowhere in the resolution is the word pedestal (or a similar word) mentioned. Additionally, the bill summary explicitly states: “This bill supports the returning of the Statue of the Confederate soldier and the associated plaque recently removed from the former Hemming Park (now James Weldon Park).”

DeFoor and Ferraro did not respond to a request for comment.


The debate regarding remaining Confederate monuments continues to draw large turnouts at public meetings from Jacksonville residents on both sides on the issue. Some are calling for the city – named after Florida’s first governor, Andrew Jackson – to change its name because Jackson owned slaves.

At the center of these discussions is the “Women of the Southland” monument in historic Springfield Park. The City changed the name from Confederate Park in August 2020.

The statue depicts a woman holding open a book as two young children stand next to her. It was built to honor women of the Confederacy whose husbands, sons, fathers and brothers were killed in the war. A plaque beneath the sculpture reads: “Those noble women who sacrificed their all upon their country’s altar.”

Women of the Southland was erected to honor women of the Confederacy who lost their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers during the Civil War (Wikimedia Commons). 

For nearly three years now, the city council has voted against removing “Women of the Southland.” Curry proposed $1.29 million in taxpayer dollars to have the monument removed, but the council blocked the request.

While the council continues to debate a permanent course of action, Harper believes Curry is willing to break the law in order to take down the monument before he leaves office in July.

Harper says there’s only one important question that remains unanswered.

“Will the City Council stand up to this?”