Statue of Bethune-Cookman Univ. Founder to Represent Florida in National Statuary Hall | UNCF

Statue of Bethune-Cookman Univ. Founder to Represent Florida in National Statuary Hall

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially requests replacement of Florida statue in National Statuary Hall on 144th anniversary of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s birth

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s statue will represent the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue in National Statuary Hall

 

On July 10, the birthday of the founder of UNCF-member institution Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a letter to the Architect of the U.S. Capitol officially requesting the replacement of the Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith statue in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol with Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will represent the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue in National Statuary Hall. The announcement coincides with the 144th anniversary of McLeod Bethune’s birthday, July 10, 1875, and was sent in accordance with Chapter 2018-19, Laws of Florida.

“Florida is proud to commemorate the 144th anniversary of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s birthday by sending our state’s formal request to place her statue in National Statuary Hall, making her the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue,” said Gov. DeSantis. “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was an influential educator, leader and civil rights activist who became one of Florida’s and our nation’s most influential leaders. Dr. McLeod Bethune’s statue will represent the best of who we are as Floridians to visitors from around the world in our nation’s capitol. Her legacy endures and will continue to inspire future generations.”

Dr. Bethune (rear, third from left) with UNCF board, 1944.

“This is an important milestone in the storied legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, whose influence and ability to convene individuals for the common good across racial and political lines made her an asset to the city of Daytona Beach and the nation, at large, as she advised U.S. presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt,” said Bethune-Cookman University Vice President of Advancement Dr. Clifford Porter. “Having the first state-commissioned statue of an African American placed in National Statuary Hall and the school she founded to continue its mission, Bethune-Cookman University, should inspire in all Floridians a great sense of pride.”

“This is a proud day for Florida and for the community that Dr. Bethune called home,” said Bob Lloyd of Daytona Beach, who is chairman of the Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund. “We are so appreciative of the support of Gov. DeSantis, Bethune-Cookman University and all Floridians who are bringing this great project to fruition.”

“I would like to thank Gov. DeSantis for taking action today to move this process forward,” said Florida Sec. of State Laurel M. Lee. “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was an accomplished Floridian whose efforts as an educator and civil rights activist made her one of our nation’s most notable figures. The Department of State looks forward to facilitating the process of placing a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in National Statuary Hall.”

Current statue of Gen. Edmond Kirby Smith

During the 2016 Legislative Session, Chapter 2016-41, was signed into law to provide for the selection of a prominent Florida Citizen to be commemorated in the National Statuary Hall Collection as a replacement for the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. After soliciting and receiving testimony from members of the public, an ad hoc committee of the Great Floridians Program recommended Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune as one of three individuals to serve as a replacement for the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, Chapter 2018-19, was signed into law requesting the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the replacement of the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection with a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

The statue of McLeod Bethune is slated to be completed and moved to National Statuary Hall in 2020.

For a PDF copy of the letter Gov. DeSantis sent to the Architect of the U.S. Capitol, click HERE.

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