Ron, we hardly knew ye.
A shameful aspect of woke intolerance has been the degrading of historical figures who fail to meet current standards of politically correctness. This vindictive fervor has spread from removing the statues of Confederate commanders and statesmen to removing those of American Founding Fathers who owned slaves to pulling down the statues of abolitionists who were not as radical as they might have been. It is therefore upsetting to discover the role played by Governor Ron DeSantis, who has become a poster boy for conservatives, in contributing to this madness. Like his predecessor Rick Scott, DeSantis thinks it’s a good idea to dishonor a Confederate commander in order to elevate a civil rights icon.
In 2018 Scott signed into law something that DeSantis put into effect in 2019, removing the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith from Capitol Hill in Tallahassee and replacing it with one of the civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. If Scott and DeSantis were trying to highlight their devotion to the civil rights cause, perhaps to increase their share of the black vote, all they really did was behave foolishly. Both Bethune and Kirby Smith deserve to be honored as Floridians, although unlike Kirby Smith, Bethune was born not in the Sunshine State but in Mayesville, South Carolina. I have no idea why this should be a zero-sum game, as it seems to be with Southern Republican governors. DeSantis, Scott, and Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas have all removed statues of Confederate heroes from place(s) of honor and substituted for them civil rights activists.
No one is asking that Southern governors add to the number of Confederate memorial statues (that still abound in the former states of the Confederacy.) If our Southern Republican governors want to give recognition to more recent state celebrities by erecting statues to them, that is their right. The question is: why demean long-honored heroes in trying to pay homage to civil rights pioneers? Even if Southern Republicans have become strangely indifferent to seeing those associated with the Confederate cause being slighted, the swapping undertaken by their governors still strikes me as unseemly. It reflects badly on the character of those leaders who engage in such clumsy virtue-signaling. Why can’t they add new heroes without subtracting older ones, who long commanded respect?
As an historian I can find much to admire in Bethune and Smith both. A dedicated and deeply religious black educator, Bethune focused on the Christian development of her students. She also deplored any misconduct on the part of blacks and like her mentor Booker T. Washington, Bethune, who was a stern disciplinarian, stressed the need for blacks to behave in a civil fashion in their own society as well as in the larger white one. Significantly, she allied with the Democratic Party and the New Deal administration in fighting disabilities against members of her race. And she played an important role in drawing away the black vote from DeSantis’s party to the Democrats during the 1930s. (Before the mid-1930s blacks had been overwhelmingly Republican.)
Kirby Smith is equally worthy of our respect, as a remarkably intelligent military leader and a dedicated natural scientist. Beside his resourceful service in the Confederate army, in which he won victories from Virginia to Texas, he distinguished himself as a brave commander in the Mexican War, after graduating with honors from West Point. After the Confederacy’s defeat, Kirby Smith devoted the remainder of his life to being a professor of mathematics and botany at the College of the South in Sewanee.
Apropos of absolutely, positively nothing, the Playboys played a huge, buck-wild fraternity party for a cpl-three years running at the University (not College; more on that anon) of the South, which was one of the loveliest college campuses I ever did see. Good times, good times. Onwards.
He also spent considerable time collecting and categorizing plants and became a distinguished botanist. There is no reason Florida’s pantheon of state luminaries cannot make room for this distinguished native son as well as for Bethune. Even more relevant, there was no justification for removing Kirby Smith’s statue, which was already placed on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee.
Finally, I can’t imagine that Bethune, any more than Kirby Smith, would have any use for the woke America now demanding that we celebrate her.
What decent, intelligent, reasonable person possibly could?
It’s mighty disappointing that DeSantis would go along with this nonsense. Now admittedly, nobody is right about every last thing, and a governor of DeSantis’s rapidly-burgeoning stature has only so many hours in his day to get things done. This forces said gov to prioritize some things over others. That said, it remains my unswerving belief that there of right ought to be NO more concessions made to the shitlibs, no matter the issue.
The Leftard camel has been allowed to poke its big, ugly snout way too far into the tent already for my liking, and I can’t even begin to imagine that DeSantis is in agreement with those assholes on this particular topic. Any and every time they can be dealt a defeat, regardless of its perceived import, they not only should be, they must be, just as a matter of principle.
A little more on the University of the South:
On July 4, 1857, delegates from ten Southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—were led up Monteagle Mountain by Bishop Leonidas Polk for the founding of their denominational college for the region. The goal was to create a Southern university free of Northern influences. As one of its co-founders, Bishop James Otey of Tennessee, put it: the new university will “materially aid the South to resist and repel a fanatical domination which seeks to rule over us.” Another of the co-founders was John Armfield, at one time co-owner of Franklin and Armfield, “the largest and most prosperous slave trading enterprise in the entire country.” His promise of $25,000 per year far exceeded any other donations and was considered a “princely offer” by a Nashville newspaper. The majority of the land for the university was donated by the Sewanee Mining Company on the condition that a university “be put in operation within ten year”. Today, according to Steven Deyle, “[d]espite his central role in its establishment, Armfield’s contributions to the University of the South, an institution that supposedly symbolized southern ideals, have all but been forgotten…The initial reports and histories of the university barely mention him, and except for a bluff named in his honor, there is no other commemoration for Armfield on the campus today.”
The six-ton marble cornerstone, laid on October 10, 1860, and consecrated by Bishop Polk, was blown up in 1863 by Union soldiers; many of the pieces were collected and kept as keepsakes by the soldiers. A few were donated back to the university, and a large fragment was eventually installed in a wall of All Saints’ Chapel. Several figures later prominent in the Confederacy, notably Bishop General Leonidas Polk, Bishop Stephen Elliott, Jr., and Bishop James Hervey Otey, were significant founders of the university. Generals Edmund Kirby Smith, Josiah Gorgas and Francis A. Shoup were prominent in the university’s postbellum revival and continuance.
Because of the damage and disruptions during the Civil War, construction came to a temporary halt. Polk died in action during the Atlanta campaign. He is remembered always through his portrait Sword Over the Gown, painted by Eliphalet F. Andrews in 1900. After the original was vandalized in 1998, a copy by Connie Erickson was unveiled on June 1, 2003.
In 1866, building was resumed, and this date is sometimes used as the re-founding of the university and the year from which it has maintained continuous operations (though official materials and anniversary celebrations still use 1857). The university’s first convocation was held on September 18, 1868, with nine students and four faculty members present. Presiding was the Rt. Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, vice-chancellor (chief academic officer) of the university, second Bishop of Tennessee and “Chaplain of the Confederacy” (compiler of the Confederate Soldiers’ Pocket Manual of Devotions, 1863). He attended the first Lambeth Conference in England (1868) and received financial support from clergy and laity of the Church of England for rebuilding the school. Quintard is known as the “Re-Founder” of the University of the South.
During World War II, the University of the South was one of 131 tertiary institutions nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which offered students a path to a Navy commission.
As I said, it’s a damned pretty place, nestled in the Tennessee mountains just a tad over fifty miles from Chattanooga. If I remember right, it’s also a hop, skip, and a jump from the real-life location of the fabled Rocky Top, made legendary by this bluegrass chestnut.