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Dallas City Council Delays Decision On Confederate War Memorial, Lee Plinth

Stephanie Kuo
The Rev. Michael Waters led an interfaith gathering at the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park last month.

Dallas City Council remains undecided on what to do with a few existing Confederate landmarks.

In a meeting Wednesday, council members delayed a vote on whether to demolish the Confederate War Memorial at Pioneer Park Cemetery — and whether to remove the base where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee once stood from Oak Lawn Park.

For the first hour, the City Council heard public comments from 49 speakers, some of whom didn’t even live in the city. Many spoke against taking down the war memorial and wanted the Robert E. Lee statue restored to Oak Lawn Park (renamed from Lee Park). It was removed in September in response to the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Council members quickly passed three measures in the most recent proposal: adding historical context to Confederate art at Fair Park, constructing a memorial of the lynching of Allen Brooks and not changing the names of Dallas streets named for Confederate leaders. The first two items are in line with what the mayor’s task force suggested.

But when council members arrived to the war memorial and Lee plinth on the agenda, council member Tennell Atkins proposed deferring a vote.

“I think we need the city manager to lead and review and propose ideas that we have not considered for enhancing and improving Pioneer cemetery,” he said.

Atkins also said the city's Landmark Commission would have to approve demolition of the memorial. But council member Scott Griggs and others pushed back against delaying a vote.

“There's probably not an issue that's been more debated, received more public scrutiny in some time here at the City Council,” Griggs said. “There's never been one that's seen so many ways to delay it and come back and revisit it.”

Council member Lee Kleinman pointed out the city doesn't have a history of honoring war veterans or U.S. presidents, saying the Confederate monuments should not be the exception.

The council ultimately voted 9-to-6 to defer a vote on the Confederate War Memorial and the Lee statue plinth until City Manager T.C. Broadnax reviews and presents alternatives.

The council also voted against selling the removed Robert E. Lee statue, currently in storage, at a fine art auction.

The KERA radio story previewing the vote.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.