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UT Delays Relocation Of Jefferson Davis Statue

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson
Texas Tribune
The statue of Jefferson Davis, once president of the Confederate States, stands just south of the Main Building on UT's campus in June.

The University of Texas at Austin will delay its plan to relocate the statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in response to a request for a temporary restraining order by the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The relocation of the statues was set for Saturday, but it was put on hold after a restraining order was filed in state district court Friday afternoon, UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein said in a statement. Though the university is confident it would be able to move forward with the relocation, it voluntarily delayed the relocation so a court can review the matter next week, Susswein said. 

The delay comes just a day after the university announced that the Davis statue would soon have a new home in an exhibit in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The Wilson statue was to be relocated to another outdoor location, but for symmetrical reasons: He stands opposite Davis on the South Mall.

"Universities have the discretion under state law to relocate statues on their campuses," Susswein said. "President [Greg] Fenves' decision to move the Jefferson Davis statue to UT's Briscoe Center for American History is both the right course forward and consistent with the law. We are confident we will move ahead with these plans."

Kirk Lyons, an attorney for the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the restraining order was necessary to consider the ramifications of removing the statues in light of the will left by George Littlefield, a UT-Austin donor who paid for the Confederate statues.

Lyons said he was in touch with members of the Littlefield family who are "outraged" about the relocation and may be added on to the lawsuit, which seeks to keep the statues in place.

"This is not ISIS. This is not the Taliban. This is Texas, by God," Lyons said of the need to involve the court in a decision made by university leaders. "What President Fenves is doing affects the liberty of every Texan."

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.