ATLANTA, October 26, 2013 — The state of Georgia is moving the statue of a controversial politician from the grounds of the capitol to a nearby park, giving Georgians an opportunity to rethink a time in the state’s history.
Officials contend the move is part of a plan to renovate the steps of the historic state capitol, according to various reports.
The 12-foot-tall bronze statue depicting Thomas E. Watson will be moved to Plaza Park, located across the street from the state capitol, according to an executive order Governor Nathan Deal signed on October 4.
“This is just part of an ongoing project to renovate the steps around the State Capitol,” Paul Melvin, a Georgia Building Authority spokesman told the New York Times. “We’re moving the statue because of the construction. To move it back would be a prohibitive cost that’s not in the budget.”
Watson served in the U.S. House from 1891 until 1893 and the U.S. Senate from 1921 until 1922. But, he is remembered, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “for being a voice for Populism and the disenfranchised, and later in life, as a southern demagogue and bigot.”
Watson is often remembered for helping to instigate the infamous lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish-American factory superintendent, in 1915.
“I think Tom Watson stands out because of the impact he had on the psyche of the people of this state and the region,” State Representative Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, told WXIA-TV. “It’s appropriate to remove him from the front door of the people’s capitol.”
But one state lawmaker wants to ensure Georgians remember Watson’s role in Georgia history — even if it is not so pretty.
State Representative Tommy Benten, R-Jefferson, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I want to make sure that in our politically correct society we don’t start moving things that tell our history. It’s all history. Somebody back in the 1930s thought enough of Tom Watson to put a statue up. If we start judging our ancestors, how are we going to be judged? What if we roll over every time someone cries racist, or says something isn’t politically correct? I bet we would have to remove statues all over the South.”
Watson was born in 1856 and died in 1922.
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