Texas Legislature

Texas Senate Votes to Limit Local Control Over Confederate Monuments

Stonewall Jackson on Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial
Stonewall Jackson on Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial Jim Schutze
Texas Senate Republicans are tired of uppity cities like Dallas taking down monuments to the Confederacy. That's the message from the state Capitol, where the Senate voted 19-12 along strict party lines to require a two-thirds, super majority vote from any municipal government that wants to get rid of their monument to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or whatever other Lost Cause traitor the Daughters of the Confederacy decided to memorialize.

click to enlarge Stonewall Jackson on Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial - JIM SCHUTZE
Stonewall Jackson on Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial
Jim Schutze

"Our history is part of who we are and part of the story of Texas, but history is never just one person’s account," Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican, 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."

“The bill that you’re carrying on the Senate floor today is disgraceful.” — Borris Miles

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As presented by Creighton, the bill would've required a local referendum before voting to get rid of one of the monuments to treason, or any other memorial of "historical significance more than 25 years old," but an amendment by Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger, one of the Senate's wild cards, restored some local control to the would-be process. The bill as amended would not have stopped Dallas from removing the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park — it voted 13-1 to do so — or voting to remove the Confederate War Memorial near City Hall. While it hasn't been removed, the ordinance calling for the memorial to be taken down passed 11-4.

Senators questioned Creighton over the bill for more than four hours Tuesday.

“The bill that you’re carrying on the Senate floor today is disgraceful,” Houston Democrat Borris Miles told Creighton. “I ask that you consider some of the pain and heartache that we have to go through — myself and some of the brothers and sisters on this floor of color and what we’ve had to go through as it relates to our Texas history.”

Any monuments or memorials that have been a state property for more than 25 years would also be protected, unless two-thirds of both the Texas House and Senate vote for their removal. Had SB 1663 been in effect earlier this year, a plaque asserting that slavery was not the chief cause of the Civil War would still be up in the Capitol building.

During his questioning of Creighton, Dallas Sen. Royce West read from the 1861 document in which Texas leaders outlined their reasons for leaving the United States and joining the Confederacy.

"'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.'"

West, who makes up, along with Miles, the entirety of the Texas Senate's Black caucus, filed an amendment to Creighton's bill that would've exempted Confederate monuments from its protections. It failed by a 19-12 vote.

Following a second, formal vote on Creighton's bill tomorrow, it will pass to the Texas House for debate later this week.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young