Only weeks after the Florida Senate removed the Confederate flag from its official seal, the state House next week will begin work on what may be the Legislature’s next historical cleanup.
The Senate replaced the Confederate banner with a state flag through a simple rules change earlier this month.
But the bid to replace the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection will take legislative approval from both the Senate and the House.
The House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee is set Wednesday to review legislation (HB 141) by Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, that would set in motion removal of the Smith from the hall, where it’s stood since 1922.
History shows Smith was born in St. Augustine, but spent little time in Florida. He commanded the last army of the Confederate States to surrender — more than a month after General Robert E. Lee gave up in April 1865.
Smith’s companion in the Capitol hall is John Gorrie, a doctor and early pioneer of air-conditioning, which has proved so vital to Florida’s development.
Gorrie looks secure. But Diaz’s bill, and a similar proposal still awaiting a Senate hearing, would authorize a panel within the Florida Department of State to choose another Floridian from history to be commemorated with a statue in the Capitol.
Removal of the Smith statue has been proposed occasionally going back at least 20 years.
But like the Senate’s seal change, the proposal has gained momentum since last summer, when South Carolina officials removed the Confederate flag from that state’s Capitol following the massacre of nine black churchgoers in downtown Charlestown.