The Mobile City Council agreed Tuesday morning to let the statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes remain at the History Museum of Mobile, without an official vote. The statue has been at the museum since shortly after it was removed prior to a protest earlier this month.
Councilors spoke publicly about the statue, weeks after it was removed from its perch at the intersection of Royal and Government streets and after Joe Ringhoffer, a commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Raphael Semmes Camp #11 argued it belonged in the hands of the ancestors of those who gifted it to the city in the first place.
Ringhoffer told councilors a ladies auxiliary group related to the original Confederate veterans group in Mobile initially raised the funds for the statue in the late 1800s and had it commissioned in 1900. He said Mayor Sandy Stimpson broke the state’s monument protection law by having the statue removed and his group, which is an offshoot of the original organization, would like to take it back.
“The mayor violated state law,” Ringhoffer told councilors. “By breaking state law, he disavowed the gift we gave to the city.”
After being pressured by Councilman Fred Richardson, Stimpson said he’d prefer the statue remain at the History Museum. However, city attorney Ricardo Woods told councilors the statue is considered city property and the governing body would have the final say on where it goes.
Woods also argued none of the documentation the city has for the statue discusses the SCV group and only references the original group, although it was rededicated and moved in 2000.
“It is still public property,” Woods said. “What happens to it is completely up to you.”
Although she asked councilors to consider Ringhoffer’s request, Councilwoman Bess Rich later said she was OK with the statue being placed in the museum if the SCV group was allowed to help write the history and be included in other decisions.
Councilman John Williams said the History Museum would be a “fine place” to put the statue. He cautioned, though, that putting the statue back on city property would open the council up to future arguments about it.
“It’s a piece of metal,” he said. “It doesn’t erase history by removing it and it doesn’t make history if we put it in a museum.”
Richardson agreed the statue should be put in the museum, but he wanted the proper context added to its display. He also requested the Black navigator for the C.S.S. Alabama’s last voyage to France be mentioned.
Councilman Joel Daves confirmed in the meeting he was one of three councilors Stimpson spoke with about the statue before it was taken down. At the time, Daves said, he recommended the statue’s removal and told the mayor he felt the History Museum was the proper venue to display it.
“I’m 100 percent behind it,” he said.
Council President Levon Manzie said he too believed the statue should be displayed in the museum with the proper context.
Following the decision, Ringhoffer said he was “disappointed.” Ringhoffer said the statue is “site-specific” based on the artist’s survey of the area near the turn of the century.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).