Photo by Robert Beeland (C’18)
By Robert Beeland
This past month, the University announced its plan to move the bas relief sculpture and associated plaques of the Edmund Kirby-Smith monument located at Texas and University Avenues to Kirby-Smith’s plot in the University Cemetery. Kirby-Smith was a professor at the University and a General in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.
The decision to relocate the sculpture and plaques comes after the Vice-Chancellor received an email from Tom Kirby-Smith, great-grandson of Edmund Kirby-Smith, on August 15, three days after the Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right rally. In that email, which Vice-Chancellor McCardell excerpted in a message sent to the student body, Tom Kirby-Smith asked that the University “remove the bas-relief of my great-grandfather from the Kirby-Smith monument.”
Kirby-Smith asked that the monument be moved since “Edward McCrady executed that bas-relief some eighty years ago when he was professor of biology… it has considerable historic and artistic interest.”
After conferring with chair of the University Cemetery Committee Jerry Smith, director of Facilities Management Mike Gardner, research associate for the Working Group on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation Tanner Potts (C’15), and Waring McCrady, former French professor and son of former, Vice-Chancellor Edward McCrady, McCardell finalized the decision. McCardell continued in his email to the University community: “On September 1, I informed the President of the Kirby-Smith Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy of this plan. I subsequently reported this decision to the Board of Regents on September 12, to the administrative Cabinet on September 18, and to the University Faculty Council on September 19. All have faithfully observed, in keeping with Mr. Kirby-Smith’s wishes, my request to hold this decision in confidence.”
In an interview with The Purple, McCardell pointed towards the Working Group’s efforts in considering the placement of Confederate imagery on campus: “I very much appreciate the way that Woody Register and [the Working Group on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation] are going about this, that this is worth taking a year to think carefully about, to get it right, and not to do anything too precipitously.”
No plans have yet been made regarding the space of the soon-to-be-empty pillar where the Kirby-Smith monument currently resides. McCardell explained in his email to the University community: “I expect to announce in due course our plans for the Texas Avenue site. My hope would be to commission a work in celebration of the University’s “second founding” in 1868 and evoking both our history over the past 150 years and our aspirations for the next 150–and more.”
Look for more from The Purple about this story in a coming issue.