Texas Supreme Court backs UT in Confederate statue removal


Highlights

Texas Supreme Court rejects appeal from Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“UT believed our position before the court was strong,” university spokesman said.

In a victory for the University of Texas, the state Supreme Court on Friday rejected a legal challenge to the 2015 removal of a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the school’s Main Mall.

The decision, announced without comment, let stand a ruling by the Texarkana-based 6th Court of Appeals that tossed out a lawsuit by the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a descendant of Maj. George Washington Littlefield, a UT benefactor and Confederate officer.

The lawsuit argued that UT President Gregory L. Fenves’ decision to remove statues depicting Davis and President Woodrow Wilson violated the terms of Littlefield’s donations of land, buildings and money to UT and damaged the Southern heritage of those who had pledged to “protect and remember his family’s home and battlefield sacrifices to the cause of Southern independence,” according to court briefs.

PHOTOS: Crews remove Jefferson Davis statue from UT’s Main Mall

The appeals court, however, ruled in March 2016 that Littlefield’s descendant and the Sons of Confederate Veterans lacked standing to sue Fenves over the removal — a decision that the state’s highest civil court upheld Friday.

“UT believed our position before the court was strong, and we are pleased with the court’s action,” university spokesman J.B. Bird said.

In 2015, Fenves said he ordered the Davis statue removed from its limestone pedestal because it was no longer in the university’s best interest to memorialize the Confederate leader on one of the most prominent locations on campus.

It was about two months after an avowed white supremacist shot nine black church members to death in South Carolina, and tolerance for Confederate symbols and monuments had waned. An advisory panel and a UT Student Government resolution pressed for the change, and the9-foot-tall bronze statue was later installed in a museum on campus.

The statue of Wilson, the nation’s 28th president, stood opposite from Davis and was moved to maintain symmetry on the mall. It was placed into storage and is awaiting a decision on where to display it.

RELATED: UT quietly removes inscription honoring the Confederacy and Southern pride

When Fenves ordered the Davis statue taken down in 2015, he allowed four others to remain on the South Mall that depicted Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston; Confederate Postmaster John H. Reagan; and James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born governor of Texas and the son of a Confederate general.

The four had deeper ties to Texas than did Davis, Fenves had said.

Last month, however, Fenves ordered the four statues removed in response to the deadly protests involving a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va.

“The display of hatred and violent actions by white supremacists in Charlottesville reaffirms our need to reject racism, bigotry and discrimination in all forms,” Fenves said. “There is no place in American society for ideologies that deny the equality of others.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and descendant Steven Littlefield of Montana responded with a lawsuit, this time in federal court, challenging that action.

That case is still in the early stages.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Activist arrested at Austin rally among those cleared in D.C. riots
Activist arrested at Austin rally among those cleared in D.C. riots

A Texas freelance photographer and activist who was acquitted last month of rioting charges in connection with President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration was arrested Saturday at the anti-Trump rally in Austin. Alexei Wood, 37, was handcuffed after a dust-up at the rally outside Austin City Hall, where hundreds of protesters called for impeaching...
Police: Maine man punches himself in face to avoid sobriety test 
Police: Maine man punches himself in face to avoid sobriety test 

Police have accused a Maine man of punching himself several times in the face to avoid a Breathalyzer test, The Bangor Daily News reported. Police suspected Brian Fogg, 27, of Belfast, to be intoxicated when they were called to a residence on Jan. 13 and found Fogg’s vehicle stuck in a ditch, police said. Belfast police said Fogg and...
FORECAST: Patchy fog in morning followed by sunshine
FORECAST: Patchy fog in morning followed by sunshine

A winter reprieve is finally here. Saturday will bring patchy fog before noon, then sunshine, according to the National Weather Service. The service warns that there may be dense fog, which could decrease visibility. Visibility is still less than a mile for most places along Interstate 35 and areas east and south of there. The day, which will begin...
THE LATEST: Activist Alexei Wood arrested at Austin anti-Trump rally
THE LATEST: Activist Alexei Wood arrested at Austin anti-Trump rally

1 p.m. update: The activist who was arrested during this morning’s rally at Austin City Hall is Alexei Wood, one of the six defendants who were acquitted last month of causing rioting and destroying property during President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. Wood was charged Saturday with theft from a person after a dustup at...
College student dies after on-campus shooting at Wake Forest
College student dies after on-campus shooting at Wake Forest

A 21-year-old student from Winston-Salem State University was shot and killed early Saturday after a fight broke out during a party at Wake Forest University, police said. The shooting occurred around 1 a.m., WXII reported. It took place on campus during a Delta Sigma Theta sorority party at The Barn, police said. Najee Ali Baker, 21, was...
More Stories