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Letter to the Editor: Another Point of View on Richmond’s Vacant Pedestals 

click to enlarge The former Jefferson Davis monument.

Scott Elmquist/File

The former Jefferson Davis monument.

My opinion is that all the pedestals should remain where they are currently situated and be repurposed. It, first, allows a great opportunity for Monument Avenue to justify its name and retain the grandeur it once had. The former monuments, even though I and many others considered them works of art, had to go due to the subject matter depicted.

The horses were beautiful. It is a shame the bodies of Stuart, Jackson, etc. could not have been removed, and a worthy soldier of merit substituted thereon. Even Kehinde Wiley must have agreed that the statutes had artistic value, or he would not have copied the likeness of Jeb Stuart’s horse as a major part of his “Rumors of War” located in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Second, the cost of removing these gigantic pieces of granite would far surpass the cost of removing the statutes. The weight alone would require enormous cranes and breaking up the stones would be a tragedy. With money that would be spent with removal, a better option would be to commission artists to create new statutes for repurposing the stonework. If smart selections were made, Monument Avenue could return as a tourist attraction to benefit all Richmonders. For example, on the Libby Hill Park tower a statute of Chief Powhatan could be placed atop looking down the James River. He was the indigenous leader of the people robbed of their lands by the early English settlers that later became Richmond. Maybe Pocahontas, Powhatan’s daughter, could join him on the top.

The remaining pedestals should contain statutes of other Virginians -- Black, white, Latino and Asian. Maybe at the Jefferson Davis stonework could be placed several statues of Americans of differing races inside the circle joining hands. The rendition of the “Love” marker could be placed in the front as suggested by Mr. Slipek, or use a rendition of Virginia’s slogan “Virginia is for All Lovers.”

With regard to eliminating the city street circles, it has been proven that circles slow down traffic and make pedestrian, cycling and automobile travel more protected. The city has created many new circles in the Fan District for this very purpose. A major circle was just completed not more than four blocks from the A. P. Hill statue. The new circle connects the Interstate 64 exit ramp, Laburnum Avenue and the Interstate 195 entrance ramp. I suspect many thousands of dollars was spent on that circle. Constructing new circles at one intersection and removing them at another makes absolutely no sense. That would define government at its worst.

I have thought many times of people worthy of standing atop one of the pedestals in addition to my suggestion for the Libby Hill marker. Booker T. Washington, a Virginian born in Hale’s Ford in 1856, was an educator, author, advisor to U. S. presidents and an orator and advocate for the African American community. He was born into slavery and became a key proponent of African American businesses. I visited his home and museum on a return trip to Richmond from Smith Mountain Lake this past fall. He is worthy of a statute even though not from Richmond.

Thomas Cannon of Richmond is also worthy. He was a postal worker who lived in Richmond and over a period of three decades gave away $131,000 from his meager earnings. The money was awarded in chunks of $1,000. His philosophy was one of universal peace and brotherhood. He gave to people locally and abroad: an amazing human being. He is worthy as an example to all of us.

Walter Reed was born in Belroi, Virginia, in 1851 and is widely known as the man who conquered yellow fever by tracing its origin to a particular mosquito species. He received his medical degree from the University of Virginia in 1869. He devoted his entire life to saving lives.

The opportunities abound. I do fully agree with Mr. Edwin Slipek that thought be given to the correct actions to be taken with the pedestals. Our Richmond leaders have become infamous for appointing commissions or study groups to make recommendations on certain matters and then ignoring the recommendations. Let us not do the same with these magnificent stone works.

Esson M. Miller Jr.
Richmond

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