AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas State Preservation Board voted Friday to remove a controversial “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque from the state capitol. The vote was unanimous and took less than five minutes. Members of the board include Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the newly-elected Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen.
The plaque was created in 1959, and asserts that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”
Calls for the plaque’s removal began over a year ago and were first voiced by Texas State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas.
“While I’m glad the State Preservation Board voted to remove the ‘Children of the Confederacy Creed’ plaque from the Texas Capitol, none of us in state government should be high-fiving each other or patting ourselves on the back today,” Johnson said in a statement. “The plaque should never have been put up by the Legislature in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken sixty years to remove it. And that’s on Republicans and Democrats alike, to be perfectly honest.”
Johnson also said in an interview that he was still processing the lack of discussion about the plaque and the board’s ultimate decision.
“I joked with someone earlier on my staff – I said around here, I’ve seen more humor or some type of human emotion associated with passing bills about how we tax dry cleaners than what was shown today,” he said.
Rep. Johnson started the process in 2017 when he wrote a letter to the State Preservation Board requesting the plaque get removed. He also submitted a building change request form. Johnson had also asked that other Confederate monuments on Capitol grounds be considered for removal after the attack at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Former speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus also pushed for the plaque’s removal.
“Confederate monuments and plaques are understandably important to many Texans. But it is important that the historical information displayed on the Capitol grounds is accurate and appropriate,” Straus wrote in a letter addressed to Gov. Abbott back in 2017.
In April 2018, El Paso Democratic State Rep. Joe Moody sought an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton about who has the authority to decide on the plaque’s removal or relocation. In November 2018, Paxton issued an opinion saying lawmakers or the State Preservation Board had the power to decide whether the plaque should be removed.
“The Legislature has moved other historic artifacts and monuments through concurrent resolutions and could likewise use that process to relocate or remove the plaque here,” the opinion said.
A report released in June 2018 by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows more Confederate statues and monuments have been removed in Texas than in any other state since 2015. The State Preservation Board’s director of special projects said there was no timeline set on when the plaque would come down and that he did not know where the plaque would eventually be relocated.