Gov. Abbott meets with lawmaker who wants Confederate plaque removed

State Rep. Eric Johnson, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 27, 2017 (Eric Johnson Facebook Photo)
State Rep. Eric Johnson, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 27, 2017 (Eric Johnson Facebook Photo)

DALLAS (KXAN) — The future of monuments in Texas that honor the Confederacy remains undecided, following a meeting between Gov. Greg Abbott and State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas.

The pair met on Friday in Dallas where they had a “productive meeting,” an Abbott staffer said.

“They talked about ways to increase employment opportunities, increase educational opportunities and improve the lives of African-Americans in Dallas and across the state of Texas,” Abbott’s deputy communications director, Ciara Matthews said in a statement.

Johnson called for the removal of a plaque on the first floor of the State Capitol, titled Children of the Confederacy Creed. The plaque was created in 1959, and asserts that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”

Johnson first asked for the plaque to come down in 2015, and also asked that other Confederate monuments on Capitol grounds be considered for removal after the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Confederate plaque in the Texas State Capitol building (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
Confederate plaque in the Texas State Capitol building (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

Johnson’s office said he handed the governor a letter following Friday’s meeting, in which he said he appreciated Abbott’s “willingness to discuss with an open mind a topic of great importance to me and many Texans.”

“Governor Abbott, please take any and all required steps to remove the ‘Children of the Confederacy Creed’ plaque from inside the Texas Capitol as soon as possible, as the plaque’s central claims are patently false,” Johnson wrote in bold letters at the bottom of page one. The four page letter contained several points to Johnson’s argument for removal.

Johnson called the plaque “cringe-worthy in its misstatement of the truth regarding Texas’ involvement in the Civil War,” in his letter.

Matthews said in an emailed statement, Gov. Abbott told Johnson he would “ask the State Preservation Board to look into the issue, specifically the history of the plaque, as well as the history of the removal of a similar plaque at the Texas Supreme Court.”

Abbott is the chair of the State Preservation Board, the body responsible for maintaining the Capitol grounds. The two co-vice chairs are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus.

Patrick has said previously that the statues should stay:

I have stated unequivocally that we will not tolerate racism, bigotry, hate or violence in Texas – not here, not now, not ever. That’s one reason I believe that we should not attempt to re-write history by removing evidence of people or events that we can learn from. In recent years we have expanded monuments and historical plaques to include people that were ignored, disparaged or forgotten in the past. The goal is to learn from history, all of our history, including events and times that many would like to forget. Our goal should be to have a meaningful dialogue for future generations so those moments in our history are not repeated.”

Straus said “Texans are not well-served by incorrect information,” in a statement last month, requesting that the plaque be removed.

“We have an obligation to all the people we serve to ensure that our history is described correctly, especially when it comes to a subject as painful as slavery,” Straus wrote in a September letter to the State Preservation Board.

In addition to the plaque, there are three other Confederate-related monuments on the Capitol grounds: Confederate Soldiers Monument, Hood’s Texas Brigade Monument and Terry’s Texas Rangers Monument.

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