The bronze sculpture of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith by artist C. Adrian Pillars, will be removed from National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The State of Florida gave the sculpture to Statuary Hall in 1922. A statue of the inventor of air conditioning, Dr. John Gorrie, will remain in Statuary Hall. Each state displays two statues within the Hall's collection.
Smith was the oldest surviving general on either side of the Civil War and led the last Confederate force to surrender. He is a United States Military Academy graduate and taught Mathematics there following his service in the Mexican- American War. Smith was brevetted (promoted in rank) for merit while serving in the Mexican-American War. He also authored botanical reports during the Mexican-American War that he donated to the Smithsonian Institute.
While assigned to teaching at West Point, he was called to serve in the Indian Campaigns, joining the 2nd Cavalry. At the beginning of the Civil War, while still serving in the 2nd Cavalry in Texas, Smith refused to surrender to the Texas Militia. However, when Florida seceded from the Union, Smith decided to resign from the United States Army. He joined the confederacy as Lieutenant Colonel. Smith was born in St. Augustine, Florida.
Smith's story is entwined with that of Alexander Darnes- who was born a slave to the Smith family in St. Augustine. It is reported that Darnes was of mixed race decent- with European and African heritage. Darnes left St. Augustine in 1855 to serve as (then) Capt. Edmund Kirby Smith's valet in the Indian Campaigns. When Smith joined the Confederacy after Florida seceded, Darnes continued his service to Smith. Darnes left an autobiographical account of his experiences as a private servant during the wars, which is a rarity according to Charles Tingley, Reference Librarian for the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library.
Alexander Darnes decided to pursue a medical degree following emancipation and graduated from Howard University. Edmund Kirby Smith's sister, Mrs. Lucien Webster, assisted Darnes with the cost of his education. (Mrs. Lucien Webster maintained Union loyalties during the Civil War.) Darnes became the first black physician in Jacksonville, Florida and second in the state.
Darnes is a well known figure in the Jacksonville area. When he passed away in 1894 newspapers reported the funeral as the largest that they had seen.
On November 8th, 2004 the city of St. Augustine unveiled a bronze sculpture of Darnes and Smith together, by Maria Kirby Smith, great granddaughter of Edmund Kirby Smith.
In March of 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed senate bill 310 into law. The bill states, "An act relating to the National Statuary Hall; providing for replacement of the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol;
providing for selection of a prominent Florida citizen to be commemorated in the National Statuary Hall Collection..."
The bill was introduced by Sen. John Legg R and Senator Gwen Margolis (D) and filed September 17, 2015, exactly three months after the Charleston Church shooting.
The Great Floridians (Ad Hoc) Committee, of the Department of State will select 3 prominent citizens to replace Kirby Smith- one will be chosen by the Legislature in 2017.
The Great Floridians Committee is giving the public the opportunity to recommend prominent citizens.
To recommend prominent citizens, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NationalStatuaryHall
The online survey will close at 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 10, 2016. The results of recommendations received by the Division will be considered by the Ad Hoc (Great Floridians) Committee at its first meeting of the year on Wednesday, June 22, 2016.
Recommendations may also be submitted in writing, including by mail or in-person delivery. Written recommendations should be submitted to the Division of Historical Resources at the following address by 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 10, 2016:
Division of Historical Resources
ATTN: National Statuary Hall
3rd Floor, R.A. Gray Building,
500 S. Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250