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A Confederate monument stands tall in downtown Bradenton. Will controversy follow?

A monument which remembers Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side, was unveiled in June 1924 and sits outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse.
A monument which remembers Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side, was unveiled in June 1924 and sits outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse. ttompkins@bradenton.com

As Hillsborough County, Manatee County’s neighbor to the north, debates whether to remove a Confederate monument from Tampa, the heated argument has yet to make it to Bradenton.

But a 93-year-old Confederate monument, with the Confederate flag on one side, sits outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse. And a similar discussion has started in Bradenton. If it should escalate to a public debate, the decision whether to remove or relocate the marble gray-colored monument would be left to the Manatee County Commission, says Angel Colonneso, the county’s clerk of the circuit court.

“Any decision would have to come from the board,” Colonneso said Monday. “On March 3, 1924, the Board of County Commissioners voted to allow the monument, so any decision surrounding the monument would have to come from the Board of County Commissioners.”

The county commission is on summer recess until July 25. As of Monday, there had no been discussion set, according to Nick Azzara, county spokesman.

Other cities in the South, including New Orleans, have removed their Confederate memorials in recent years.

The monument in Bradenton, which honors Confederate veterans, is steeped in history. The statue was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and unveiled in June 1924. On the front panel of the marble monument, it states “In Memory of Our Confederate Soldiers” and the names Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are etched on the other sides.

According to the March 3, 1924, commission meeting minutes, “The Ladies of the Daughters of the Confederacy made application to erect a monument to the memory of the Confederate dead on the Court House property.” By the vote of the commission, they were “permitted to place a monument on the Court House square,” the minutes continued.

When it was unveiled, it was done so “in the presence of a large and interested audience,” according to a 1924 newspaper clipping in the Evening Herald.

“The monument to the Confederacy, the first shaft to be set up anywhere in this city or Manatee County, was unveiled Sunday afternoon,” according to the clipping. “The exercises were interesting and well arranged and the program went through with a smoothness seldom equaled in such affairs.”

During the event, eight Confederate veterans were in attendance, seated in the front, according to the article. Before the unveiling, the monument was draped with both the national colors and the colors of the Confederacy, and a small Confederate flag was placed at each corner.

“It is to us a happy occasion, and, in our opinion, a fortunate one for our country,” Denise Shields, who was the president of the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said during the unveiling. “The story of their sacrifices in behalf of their beloved land, the Southland of America, is one that has been recorded in history, and will go down the ages as an inspiration to generations of Americans yet unborn. ...And, now, we present this shaft to the city of Bradentown and the county of Manatee, to be preserved and guarded in the spirit of those who have placed it here.”

The monument outside the Historic Courthouse is not the only place in Manatee County with ties to the Confederacy. In Ellenton, there is the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.

But Kevin Kiser, the park’s manager, said there hasn’t been any discussion related to the name.

“It’s legislatively named,” he said. “It would take an act of the Legislature, I believe, to change it.”

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

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