Confederate statue a step closer to returning to Hemming family

The latest chapter on the statue and plaque honoring fallen Confederate soldiers was at what was then named Hemming Plaza since 1898: the city council might return them to the family that originally donated it.

A statue and plaque that honored fallen Confederate soldiers at a downtown park is one step closer to being returned to the family that originally donated it.

The statue once stood in what was long known as Hemming Park, until last year, when it was renamed James Weldon Johnson Park. It was removed before sunrise on June 9. The park was originally named after Civil War veteran Charles Hemming.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry at the time declared that the city heard the voices of demonstrators and pledged to remove other statues in the city.

During Tuesday night’s City Council meting, Elwood Hemming, a descendant of the Hemming family, which donated the statue, appeared via Zoom.

“I just want to say thank you to everybody because I see all the hatred that’s going on in this country. People not understanding the present, the past and the future,” Hemming said.

He expressed gratitude that the council is supporting a resolution to allow the return of the statue back to the family.

“And the biggest thing is we can’t forget our past and what my Great-Great-Uncle Charles did for bringing the north and south together with the statue. People don’t even realize that. They think it all has to do with slavery,” Hemming said.

Hemming said what his relative did as a banker in Jacksonville was to help people coming out of slavery get a foothold in buying property and begin a new life. He said the family is grateful City Council listened to their plea to have the statue returned.

“We look forward to the family having possession of the statue again and putting it on private property and actually have people educated on what it really stood for that it was the north and the south coming together after the Civil War,” he said.

City Councilman Garrett Dennis said after the meeting, the resolution goes back to the administration.

“Hopefully the administration works in good faith and with the Hemming family in getting the statue back to the family,” Dennis said.

About the Author:

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.