University removes Davis statue from Main Mall

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Workers from Vault Fine Art Services prepare to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from the Main Mall on Sunday morning. The work crew also removed the statue of Woodrow Wilson.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

This article has been updated throughout since publication.

After months of debate, UT removed the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from the Main Mall on Sunday morning. 

The removal of both statues comes on the heels of an injunction hearing Thursday to determine whether UT could remove the statue. The Davis statue will be relocated within 18 months to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, where it will be displayed to the public once museum renovations are completed. University spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said University officials have not yet determined a new location for the Wilson statue, which was removed to maintain symmetry on the Main Mall.

The removal process began around 9 a.m. when Vault Fine Art Services covered the Davis statue with protective wrapping. Vault Fine Art Services then lifted the statue off its platform and placed it in a trailer for transportation.

Once workers properly wrapped both statues, the crew slowly tilted the statues back to cut the pins attaching the statues to their pedestals. After the pins were cut, workers lifted and loaded the statues into the trailer for refurbishing, according to Robert Boland, manager for Vault Fine Art Services. 

Boland said removing the Davis statue went well, despite a lack of knowledge about the original installation of the statue.

“It went very smoothly,” Boland said. “There were a lot of questions in the beginning, but through trial and error, we figured out how exactly many pins there were and made sure they were released and we lifted him up.”

UTPD estimated a crowd of 50 people gathered at the Main Mall to see the Davis statue removed. 

Construction workers place the statue of Jefferson Davis in a trailer after removing it from the Main Mall on Sunday morning. The Davis statue will be placed in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History within 18 months. Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu campaigned since February for the removal of the Davis statue. Rotnofsky and Mandalapu passed legislation in March for its removal and started a petition in June calling for the statue’s removal. 

 

“It is nice that it is done,” Rotnofsky said. “It took a lot of effort and it paid off.”   

A smaller crowd remained present for the removal of the Wilson statue an hour after Davis was removed. 

Weldon said Project Management and Construction Services will determine how the statues’ inscriptions will be removed or what should be used to cover them. 

Kirk Lyons, the attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the group filed a writ of injunction in the state Supreme Court on Friday. When they repeatedly filed for their motion to stand, the court continued to reject it. Lyons said the Sons of Confederate Veterans continued to work on the motion but had to give up on Friday evening. 

“We just had to hope that the state didn’t move forward on moving brother Jeff and brother Woodrow, and obviously we ran out of time,” Lyons said.

A worker stabilizes the statue of Jefferson Davis during its removal Sunday morning. It took approximately one hour to remove the statue. Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

Lyons said although he thinks the writ is a moot point, the group will continue to pressure the UT community to protest the removal of the statue. 

“We’re just going to take our message to what’s left of the people of Texas that appreciate heritage and history,” Lyons said. “If they’ve got a few million dollars laying around that they want to give to UT, we’re going to tell them to give to someone else. This is all about money and almost always is. We just have to mobilize that community to tell Mr. [UT President Gregory] Fenves he better enjoy his short time at the University.”

Urban studies major Brett Davis said he thinks UT is rectifying the past in light of recent controversy surrounding the Confederacy in other southern states.  

“My city of New Orleans is taking down its central statue of Robert E. Lee in the next year or so,” Davis said. “South Carolina got rid of the Confederate flag, and various states are dealing with it right now. I think it is appropriate that we do, too.”