House panel set to discuss US Capitol statue


Amid proposals to replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with a statue of civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune, a state House committee next week is scheduled to discuss the process of replacing statues at the National Statuary Hall in Washington.

The House Government Accountability Committee is slated to take up the issue during a meeting Sept. 12.

Each state is allowed two representatives at the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, with Florida long represented by Smith and John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

State lawmakers in 2016 voted to replace the statue of Smith amid a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols in the wake of the 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

But lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session did not agree on a replacement for Smith. Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach, have proposed measures (SCR 184 and HCR 73) for the 2018 session that would replace Smith with Bethune, who founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University.

Along with Bethune, a panel known as the Great Floridians Committee last year nominated Everglades activist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix grocery story founder George Washington Jenkins Jr. as candidates to replace Smith.