AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The University of Texas will move a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis away from the center of campus, but statues of other Confederate figures will remain, school president Greg Fenves announced Thursday.
The century-old Davis statue had been targeted by vandals and had come under increasing criticism as a symbol of racism. State government and businesses around the country have removed Confederate symbols following the mass shooting in June of black church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
Fenves took over as president of one of the nation's largest universities in June and quickly appointed a campus task force to consider what to do with the Davis statue. Moving it to another part of campus was one of the panel's recommendations presented earlier this month.
The statue of Davis, who was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, will be placed in the school's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History as part of an educational display. That will place it next door to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, a figurative monument to the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.
The process of moving the statue will start Friday. Once refurbished, it should be on display in its new location by the end of 2017.
Fenves said statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston, and Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan, will remain near the university's central clock tower.
Those men had "deep ties to Texas. Robert E. Lee's complicated legacy to Texas and the nation should not be reduced to his role in the Civil War," Fenves said. "While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university's best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall."
Lee, while known mostly for his ties to his home state of Virginia, spent several years leading troops in Texas before the start of the Civil War.
Davis' great-great grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis of Gulfport, Mississippi, had written Fenves during the discussions on what to do with that statue. He said Davis' legacy should include his distinguished military career and service as a U.S. senator and Secretary of War before he was elected president of the Confederate States of America.
"I believe that academic institutions have the opportunity to create environments to teach history," said Hayes-Davis, who called moving the statue and not discarding it "appropriate and reasonable."
"I don't want anybody to walk by a statue and feel it is demeaning or threatening in their life," Hayes-Davis said.
Fenves also ordered that a statue of President Woodrow Wilson be moved to "preserve the symmetry" of the central campus.
The Davis statue has been a point of controversy for years on the Texas campus and the issue had been studied by previous school presidents. The student government adopted a resolution in March supporting the statue being removed entirely.
Vandals had spray-painted the Davis statue several times with slogans such as "Davis Must Fall" and "Emancipate UT." The Lee and Johnston statues also were spray-painted in June with "Black lives matter," a slogan that gained use after the fatal shooting a year ago of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.