State News

November 30, 2013

Statue of white supremacist gone from Capitol

A statue of a one-time Georgia politician who became known as a white supremacist is gone from its pedestal outside the state Capitol.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that crews took down the bronze statue of Thomas E. Watson on Friday. The building was closed for a state holiday at the time.

With few people downtown, workers wrapped Watson’s 12-foot-tall, fist-pumping likeness in a bundle of blue moving blankets and duct tape. A crane then hoisted it and the statue’s heavy stone base away from the state Capitol’s west steps.

The statue is being erected in a new spot in a park across the street.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order in October authorizing the removal. The order said the statue needed to be removed because of renovation work on the west side of the Capitol.

Born in 1856, Watson was elected to the General Assembly and later served as a congressman and U.S. senator from Georgia. He also was nominated by the Populist Party to run as vice president in 1896.

Initially considered a liberal, Watson later became the publisher of an influential weekly newspaper and emerged as a “force for white supremacy and anti-Catholic rhetoric,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

During the case of Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who was convicted in the 1913 killing of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, Watson fanned the flames of public outrage with accusations against Jews, according to an account in the encyclopedia.

Frank’s death sentence was later commuted to life in prison, but he was taken from his cell by a mob and lynched in 1915.

Watson died in 1922, and he was viewed by many as a hero when his statue was dedicated outside the Capitol in 1932.

 

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