Former Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, Sr., is finally leaving Virginia’s Capitol Square. On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam announced the signing of Delegate Jay Jones’ (D-Norfolk) HB 2208, which directs the Department of General Services to place the statue in storage until the General Assembly decides what to do with it. Byrd is known for his decades of political power, which he used to boost Virginia economically, build roads, and fight desegregating schools.
“It is my deep belief that monuments to segregation, massive resistance, and the segregation of one race below another only serve as a reminder to the overt and institutional racism that has and continues to plague our commonwealth,” Jones, who is running for Attorney General, said in committee in January.
“Not withstanding the bad, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. had a life that left Virginia quite a legacy,” Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) said in February on the Senate floor.
“Certainly, the great stain on Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.’s career was when this country was being ripped apart by segregation. He was an advocate of massive resistance, and that is a great stain on his career, and a great embarrassment,” Vogel said, but added that everyone is a sum of their good and bad actions. “He was a man of a certain time and a certain era.”
On Friday, gubernatorial candidate Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) mused about the significance of removing the statue.
“When I was an intern for the first Black governor of Virginia, I walked past that statue every day. I knew I was Byrd’s worst nightmare,” she tweeted. “I’ve seen how racist systems built in the past still impact Virginia today, and I’ve fought to fix them every step of the way. Removing Byrd’s statue from Capitol Square is an important step for our Commonwealth.”
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