In a text to a citizen asking to rename Lee Square to its original name, Florida Square, and remove the Confederate monument, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said we should remember the monument was from widows and women to remember those who died in a conflict.
“If our efforts are truly about equity and justice and not simply self interest for personal desire, then we need to be thoughtful, deliberate and respectful,” wrote the mayor. “We are talking about widows and women, people who certainly understand challenges of equality.”
He added, “Respect is the only way to truly heal.”
The mayor’s memory is selective.
The widows of Governor Edward Perry and Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory and the Ladies Confederate Monument Association of Pensacola did help raise the funds for the monument, but others played a big hand bringing it about.
The idea originated with Governor Perry. In 1881, three years before he was elected, he wrote a letter that was published in Pensacola’s Semi-Weekly Gazette that appealed for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to be “foremost in contributions for a monument which shall be some small token of our appreciation of what is due to an honest soldier’s dust.”
Perry, Pensacola resident and brigadier general in the Confederate army, was elected governor without carrying Escambia County. During his one term, he abolished Pensacola’s city government and replaced all the black officials (Escambia County was 45% black). He oversaw the 1885 state constitution convention that gutted all the rights black citizens gained after the Civil War.
Perry failed to win re-election and died before he could accomplish having a state monument built in Tallahassee. After his death in 1889, only $3,005 had been raised, all but $87 of which from the Pensacola area, according to Pensapedia. In April 1890, the project was revived by William Dudley Chipley, and its location moved to Pensacola.
Chipley had been appointed to city office by Perry when he abolished the city charter. He served as mayor for 1887-88.
Before moving to Pensacola, Chipley, along with other Ku Klux Klan members in Columbus, Ga., had been charged for the the murder of George W. Ashburn. The state legislature ratified the 14th Amendment, which ultimately dissolved the military court before it could render a verdict.
At the monument’s dedication, the daily newspaper declared June 17, 1891 would go into history as “the most glorious day that the old city has ever known.”
The monument honors Jefferson Davis – “The only man in our nation without at country”- on its east face; Perry – “… faithful in every position to which his merit advanced him”- on its west face; Mallory – “Tis not in mortals to command success…- on its north face; and “The Uncrowned Heroes of the Southern Confederacy” on its south face.
Chipley, vice president of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, would be later elected to the Florida Senate and lose his bid for U.S Senator in 1896 by one vote. He has been honored with an obelisk in Plaza Ferdinand on Palafox.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers doesn’t believe the monument is about women’s rights.
“This is not a women’s rights issue, and the issue of discrimination against women should not be exploited to justify keeping a symbol that represents 300 years of the enslavement of African American women and men because of the color of their skin,” Myers told Inweekly.
She pointed out that many white women were involved in the abolitionist movement to free slaves.