Last week, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick finally followed through on a promise he made during one of the 2019 Texas Legislature's tensest moments. Good luck figuring out what it was without any help.
Here's the announcement from Patrick's office, made during the middle of Thanksgiving week, when no one had anything better to pay attention to.
"Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced today that he has appointed a committee to review the history and procedures for the placement of art and other decor in the historic Texas Senate Chamber. Senate Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, will chair the committee.
"The Lt. Governor has made a number of changes in the historic Senate Chamber during his tenure including, in 2015, restoring the annual practice of placing a Christmas Tree, after an absence of many years.
"In addition to Chairman Hughes, the committee will include Senators Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, Borris Miles, D-Houston, Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin."
Ten points if you can read between the lines and see that Patrick is talking about the multiple memorials to Confederate traitors that hang in the Texas Senate chamber over which Patrick presides.
The debate over what's hanging on the Senate's walls came to a head in May, after state Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe, introduced a bill that would've banned municipal governments from removing Confederate monuments from public property, as Dallas did when it removed the statue of Robert E. Lee from what was then known as Lee Park.
"Our history is part of who we are and part of the story of Texas, but history is never just one person’s account," Creighton said, introducing his bill on the Senate floor. "We've seen a trend across the nation and the world where controversial monuments are removed and destroyed ... I fear that we'll look back and regret that this was a period where deleting history was more important than learning from it."
Houston's Borris Miles and Dallas' Royce West, who make up the entirety of the Texas Senate's black caucus, blasted the bill. Miles called it a disgrace. West, who did not return the Observer's request for comment Monday, chose to read from the 1861 document in which Texas leaders explained why they were rebelling against the United States.
"'We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial' — check this out — 'or tolerable,'" West read. "'That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind' — listen to this part — 'and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.'"
The lieutenant governor agreed to form the committee during debate over the bill, which passed the Senate but did not pass the Texas House.
Patrick's decision to form the committee comes after a protracted battle over an ahistorical plaque that, until January, hung in the capitol, informing all who saw of the "heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate Army" and pledging that the children of the Confederacy will study and teach the truths of history, "one of the most important of which is that the war between the states was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery."
After a protracted push led by then state Representative and now Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, the state's Preservation Board voted unanimously to get rid of the plaque, which had decorated the capitol for six decades.
While the plaque is gone, paintings of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson still adorn the state Senate's walls. No date has been set for the committee's first meeting.
(Hat tip to The Dallas Morning News' Lauren McGaughy, without whose reporting we might've missed the news, too.)
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.