For the second quarterly meeting in a row, the Capitol Building Commission on Wednesday stonewalled on the matter of the Stonewall Jackson statue and bust on the West Virginia Capitol grounds.
The statuary was not on the commission agenda for a second meeting in a row since the commission held a public hearing on it in December, when seven of eight speakers called for removing the statue from the southeast corner of the Capitol complex and the bust from the Capitol Rotunda.
Two days before that public hearing, Virginia Military Institute removed the duplicate of the Capitol’s Stonewall Jackson statue from its grounds. Last weekend, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, removed three Confederate statues from town squares, including one of Jackson.
Calls to remove the Jackson statue at the West Virginia Capitol date back a decade, but they intensified last summer as part of a wave of Confederate memorial removals across the South during protests against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020.
To date, neither the Legislature nor Gov. Jim Justice have responded to calls to remove the statue and bust, which critics contend are symbols of white supremacy.
During the 2021 regular session, the House of Delegates passed, on a 70-28 vote, a bill that would have made it a crime to remove or relocate Confederate statuary without state authorization. The bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
No members of the public attended Wednesday’s commission meeting, which was moved at the last minute from its scheduled location in the State Museum Media Room to a second-floor conference room in the Culture Center to allow some committee members to participate via teleconference.
Commissioners did take up one agenda item, authorizing the state Treasurer’s Office to install laminate flooring in a suite of offices that have flooded on three recent occasions, including on March 26, when a pipe on an upper floor in the East Wing burst.
Steve Bohman, chief of staff to state Treasurer Riley Moore, told commissioners that the flooding further damaged carpeting in the suite, which houses the Treasurer’s Office communications division, as well as offices for two staff attorneys. He said the carpeting was torn out, revealing asbestos tile underneath.
Bohman said plans are to replace the carpet with laminate flooring that looks like white oak hardwood, to match the wooden doorframes in the offices.
In a letter to commissioners, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Susan Pierce said that, while Capitol architect Cass Gilbert provided direction for types of flooring to be used in the Supreme Court, the foyers of the House and Senate chambers, and the Governor’s Office, there is no record indicating that he specified types of flooring to be used in secondary offices in the Capitol.
She said the proposed flooring would not adversely affect the historical character of the building.