Councilman Garrett Dennis filed a bill this week that would urge the city to give the recently taken down Charles Hemming monument back to the Hemming family.
The Confederate monument, which was located on top of a pedestal in James Weldon Johnson Park across the street from City Hall, was removed overnight in June, per orders from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
Curry said that the rest of the Confederate monuments in the city would go down with it.
“They're the rightful owners,” Dennis said. “They gave the monument to be placed in the park.”
Dennis said he’s been speaking with the Hemming family for weeks about returning the monument back to them.
Dennis filed the original bill to change the name of the park to commemorate James Weldon Johnson, a internationally-known civil rights activist, writer, and Jacksonville native.
Charles C. Hemming, which the monument is modeled after and who the park was named for, was a Confederate veteran from Northeast Florida who had the monument erected in the park more than 120 years ago.
While Dennis and the Hemming family don’t agree on every issue related to the park, he said the family should have the right to keep the monument in their possession.
“It's time to move on,” Dennis said. “And so this is one way to move forward in the chapter of our country and our state.”
Right now, Dennis said the monument is in a city-owned warehouse.
The bill is a resolution, meaning it is more of a show of support by the council if passed, and holds less weight than an ordinance. It will be heard by a pair of City Council committees before a final vote is taken. If it passes, the city’s legislative services would send a copy of the resolution to the Secretary of State and to each member of the Duval County delegation.
Since being taken down, Dennis said there have been multiple organizations that have reached out to the city looking to buy the monument. The bill states that at the time it was constructed and donated, it was worth $20,000. The bill further reads, “in today’s value [the statue] would be more than $500,000.”
“This is not just Garrett Dennis out on a limb trying to get the monument returned back to them,” Dennis said. “This is something that myself, along with the family, we're doing together, and it's the right thing to do.”
WJCT News reached out to the Hemming family for comment. If a response is received this story will be updated.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.