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The End Seems Near for Downtown Dallas' Confederate Memorial

Dallas' Confederate war memorial should be removed, the city's Confederate Monuments Task Force said.
Dallas' Confederate war memorial should be removed, the city's Confederate Monuments Task Force said.
Mark Arthur

We've been here before, but Dallas' Confederate war memorial, the one that dominates Pioneer Plaza between City Hall and the convention center, appears to be in its final days.

Dallas city staff gave City Council members three options Wednesday for what to do with the 60-foot-tall  behemoth. The council could vote to leave the memorial as it stands, add plaques and exhibits attesting to the real history of the Civil War or tear the whole thing down and store it for about $480,000.

The council didn't vote on their preferred fate for the memorial Wednesday — yesterday's council meeting was a briefing meeting, not a voting meeting — but it was clear from their discussion where the unknown soldier at the top of the obelisk is headed. He's getting torn down, barring a significant change of heart from the council or unforeseen intervention from Dallas' Landmark Commission.

As he's been throughout Dallas' nearly two-year reckoning with its Confederate statuary, Pleasant Grove's Rickey Callahan stood up for the monument and his version of history, but he was the only council member to argue for the monument being left as is.

"I signed up for this job six years ago because I really wanted to get something done. More park land, picking up dogs, fix our sidewalks, fix our streets, try to do something in a positive way," said Callahan, who believes one of his ancestors served as a guard at Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prison camp. "Instead, we've got these divisions, these wedge issues that are really immaterial to the future of our city."

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings argued for contextualizing the existing monument — making it a place where kids and adults could come to learn about the history of the war and the monument itself.

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"The question is: Are we missing an opportunity?" Rawlings asked. "It's actually pretty easy for me to say let's take it down ... [but] to me that's the opportunity. How do we make this something that's going to be with us for decades and say, 'Never forget, never forget, never forget'?"

The clear majority of council members, including each of the council's four black members, said they wanted to get the monument off city grounds.

"I'm here today to clearly say that I am in full support of [removing the monument]," council member Casey Thomas said. "My recommendation is that we remove the statue, that we put it in storage and then we consider this concept of re-envisioning that space ... We need something there that's going to reflect the Dallas of the future and not the Dallas of the past."

Following Wednesday's briefing, the monument will get a vote from the City Council during the winter or spring. If the council votes to remove the monument, the Landmark Commission will take up the matter, because the statue sits in a city cemetery. While the monument appears to be on its last legs, it will likely be up for at least a few more months.

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