A Dallas legislator might have gained a powerful ally in his quest to remove a Confederate plaque near his Capitol office.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said through a spokesman Thursday that the State Preservation Board should review “signs and monuments around the Capitol” for accuracy and that he will work with Rep. Eric Johnson on the matter. The comment comes a day after the lawmaker asked the preservation board to remove the almost 60-year-old plaque, titled the “Children of the Confederacy Creed.”
Part of the plaque states members of the Texas division of the organization Children of the Confederacy “pledge ourselves to preserve pure ideals; to honor our veterans; to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is, that the war between the states was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery), and to always act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors.”
Johnson, a five-term Democrat who recently moved into an office in the original Capitol building, challenged the accuracy of the message.
“The aforementioned plaque has no rightful place in the Texas Capitol,” Johnson said in his letter to the board. “The plaque is not historically accurate in the slightest, to which any legitimate, peer-reviewed Civil War historian will attest.”
The preservation board’s executive director hadn’t had the opportunity to respond to Johnson’s request as of Thursday afternoon, spokesman Chris Currens told the American-Statesman. The preservation board, which is charged with preserving and maintaining the Capitol, is also unsure about protocol in such a case and “what governs what,” he added.
“We’re not fully certain yet,” Currens said.
Johnson’s effort is part of a larger one to rid the Capitol of all its Confederate monuments, as communities across the nation weigh whether to remove Confederate symbols after a white supremacy protest in Charlottesville, Va., that left one counterprotester dead and dozens more injured. Protesters were angry about the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.
“The removal of Confederate iconography from the Texas Capitol and its grounds is long overdue,” Johnson told the American-Statesman on Wednesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who is chairman of the preservation board, said Wednesday that removing Confederate monuments wouldn’t change the past or help a society move forward.
“If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Abbott said in a statement. “Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”
Johnson said he wants to meet with Abbott.
“I remain hopeful that the governor will meet with me to discuss this matter, especially since I know he prides himself on being an intellectual,” Johnson said in a statement Thursday. “The plaque at issue is simply indefensible on historical grounds, and I believe Gov. Abbott knows that.”