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State Lawmakers Working to Remove Byrd Statue, Rename Jefferson Davis Highway

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Lawmakers are taking action to remove some divisive symbols from public view.

Say goodbye to Jefferson Davis and Harry Byrd. Lawmakers are poised to remove the statue of the segregationist governor from Capitol Square. They're also about to force local governments to change the name of parts of Route 1 known as Jefferson Davis Highway.  


Delegate Joshua Cole is a Democrat from Fredericksburg who introduced the bill to force local governments that haven’t already renamed stretches of Route 1 to do it this year or face the consequences. 


"We are removing Jefferson Davis Highway, and localities can change the name before January 1 of 2022, and if they don't we will change it for them," Cole explains. 


And then there's the statue of Harry Byrd, the segregationist former governor who led the effort to close schools rather than integrate during the dark days of massive resistance.  


Delegate Jay Jones is a Democrat from Norfolk who introduced the bill to remove the statue erected in 1976. 


"So this is not some sort of destruction of the statue if we want to contextualize it later, I think that's fine. But it has no place in Capitol Square," Jones says. 


The bills to ditch Jefferson Davis and Harry Byrd have passed the House and are awaiting a final vote in the Senate.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.