Hemming family left with questions after removal of Confederate statue

Charles Hemming donated memorial to state of Florida in 1898

Charles Hemming donated memorial to state of Florida in 1898.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The removal of the Confederate memorial in Hemming Park isn’t sitting well with direct descendants of Charles Hemming, who donated the statue to the state of Florida in 1898.

The Hemming family told News4Jax it wasn’t given any warning about the statue coming down.

“I understand that people may or may not like it, but the fact that they didn’t even have the decency to call the living relatives and say, ‘Hey, listen, this is what we’re having problems with,'” Elwood Hemming, Charles Hemming’s great-great-nephew, told News4Jax on Wednesday.

The statue that Elwood Hemming said his family members have gathered around for family reunions was removed early Tuesday morning by order of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. For some city residents, the Confederate statue reminds them of a time in American history that they would rather forget. But for Elwood Hemming, the statue was a part of his family lineage.

“At least call the family and let them know, ‘Hey, we’re going to move this. Do you want the statue back? This is what we’re going to do with it.’ I’m not getting any information as to where it’s at, what they’re doing, where can I see it at,” he said. “That’s where I’m kind of frustrated.”

Standing at 62-feet tall, the Confederate statue was one of the few Jacksonville landmarks to survive the 1901 fire after being donated to the state by Charles and Lucy Hemming. Their great-great-nephew said Curry didn’t have the authority to have it removed.

”The statue was actually given to the state of Florida. It was not given to the city of Jacksonville, so the order has to come down for the state. The mayor has no legal way to remove the statue without the state saying so," Elwood Hemming said.

Curry said Tuesday that the location where the statue might end up was still to be decided.

“My administration will work with the cultural council to have the conversations about moving them off of public space to somewhere that will contextualize history, so people don’t forget history, so history doesn’t repeat itself,” the mayor said.

Elwood Hemming said if the statue isn’t put in a public place for people to view for free, he would like to erect it on his own property, serving as a reminder of his family lineage.

“We need to remember history. I don’t care if it was the Holocaust. I don’t care if it was the Civil War. If we forget it nowadays -- it amazes me how many 20- to 30-year-olds I talk to that have no idea what the Civil War was, what the Holocaust was. They don’t know. They’re not teaching us in school,” Elwood Hemming said. “It’s sad, and we’re going to repeat our history if we’re not careful.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, News4Jax was awaiting a response from the mayor’s office on where the statue is and where it could go.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.