Two weeks ago, a statue of white supremacist and former Mississippi Gov. Theodore Bilbo stood in the state Capitol unharmed for everyone to see. Then last Thursday, it disappeared without a trace with people wondering where the statue had gone.
According to the Associated Press, the top administrator in the Mississippi House decided to take the statue off the public display and move it into a storage closet. The administrator responsible is House clerk Andrew Ketchings.
As a house clerk, Ketchings has the authority to authorize paint jobs, new carpet and other maintenance for areas used by the House of Representatives in Mississippi.
From the Associated Press:
He said a work crew moved the Bilbo statue on a Saturday in October, at a cost of about $4,000 to $5,000, paid by public money. It is now covered by a fire-resistant blanket, in a large closet behind one of the Capitol elevators.
Bilbo was a Democrat known for racist rhetoric. He was governor from 1916 until 1920 and again for the 1928-1932 term. He was in the U.S. Senate from 1935 until he died in 1947.
Ketchings said he had been bothered by the statue for years “because of everything he stood for.”
“It was way past time to do it. I just read through a lot of his quotes that were offensive,” said Ketchings, who was a Republican Mississippi House member from 1996 to 2004.
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According to the Associated Press, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus meets in the room where the statue of Bilbo was on display. In the past, Black lawmakers in the state asked for the statue to be moved but no action was taken.
This has been a recurring action all over the country as statues of racist figures have been taken down in Virginia, New York, Alabama and other places across the country.
More from the Associated Press:
During Bilbo’s last campaign in 1946, a group of Black Mississippi residents filed a petition with the U.S. Senate, saying Bilbo had used “inflammatory appeals” to white people and incited violence that discouraged Black voters from participating in the Democratic primary, according to the U.S. Senate. A bipartisan group of senators traveled to Mississippi to hear testimony. A majority of them sided with Bilbo and said he should be seated, but a minority wrote a report saying Bilbo had used “vile, contemptible, inflammatory and dangerous language.”