The city of Richmond, Virginia, may be saying goodbye to its last-standing Confederate statue, a Virginia circuit court said Tuesday, ruling in favor of the city in a lawsuit over whether Richmond was allowed to remove the monument and the remains of the general buried beneath it.
The 130-year-old monument, which currently stands in the center of the Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road intersection, depicts Confederate General A.P. Hill, who was killed during the Third Battle of Petersburg in 1865. Hill’s remains are buried beneath the statue.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr.’s ruling clears the way for Richmond to donate the statue and pedestal to a history museum, as well as relocate his remains to a cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia, a court order reviewed by CBS News said.
“We’re gratified by Judge Cheek’s ruling. This is the last stand for the Lost Cause in our city,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement to CBS News.
While Hill’s descendants —the plaintiffs in the case— did not object to relocating the general’s burial remains or taking the statue down, they wanted discretion over where the actual statue would be relocated. They claimed that the plot of land the monument is on constituted a cemetery — not a city-owned war memorial.
The court did not agree, arguing that the monument should be classified as a war memorial, not a cemetery.
According to Richmond law, in order for a plot of land to be designated as a cemetery, it needs to be “used ‘exclusively’ for providing a final resting place for deceased persons.” That definition also suggests “that a cemetery must contain the remains of more than one person.” The A.P. Hill monument does not check either box.
As a result, only the city should determine where the statue would be moved, the judge explained in the court order analysis.
In August 2020, the Richmond City Council approved an ordinance which allows the city to remove Confederate statues from its own property, according to the court documents.
Under Stoney’s leadership, and in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, protestors and contractors in the city have taken down several Confederate monuments, including those of General Stonewall Jackson and Confederate naval leader Matthew Fontaine Maury.
“We look forward to a successful conclusion of the legal process, which will allow us to relocate Hill’s remains, remove and transfer the statue to the Black History Museum and, importantly, improve traffic safety at the intersection of Hermitage and Laburnum,” Stoney said in his statement.