‘Johnny Reb’ monument will be moved, officials say
Commissioners agree to hold off on desicion on where to relocate Confederate statue
By Bill Thompson
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The Confederate soldier monument will be moved from its hideaway at the Marion County Courthouse, the County Commission has decided.
Where it ends up remains unanswered.
The board on Tuesday reached a consensus to relocate the 101-year-old statue of a Confederate infantryman from a corner on the south side of the courthouse, where it has been for two years during the $41-million expansion of the facility.
That project is expected to be completed in January, but until Tuesday, the statue was slated to remain put.
After agreeing to move the 23-foot-tall icon, commissioners weighed several options on the new location, as presented by County Administrator Lee Niblock.
Those included: two spots within the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park; the grounds of the county historical museum at the McPherson Governmental Complex; and the courthouse, either by leaving it where it is or moving it 75 feet from there, as was initially called for in the expansion plan.
Each site had advantages and drawbacks.
The courthouse is where the monument, known locally as Johnny Reb, has stood for almost its entire existence.
But history buffs and county officials agree the current location is not prominent enough or appropriate, and moving the statue 75 feet, as originally planned, would cost as much as the two-mile move to the park.
The Veterans Park is seen by many as a logical choice for a monument commemorating the nation’s bloodiest conflict. On Monday, the Marion County Historical Commission sent the county a letter noting the statue’s commemoration of soldiers from Marion County and the rest of Florida who fought in the War Between the States and recommended it be relocated to the largely vacant section on the western end of the park.
If placed within the park, however, it would dominate the landscape and possibly eclipse a memorial to soldiers who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
The museum made sense, given the statue’s historical nature and the fact that it holds Civil War-era items.
Yet the small facility, located about a block off both Fort King Street and Southeast 25th Avenue, is off the beaten path relative to the courthouse or the park, thus undermining the commission’s determination that the statue needs to be more prominently displayed. And this would be the costliest option, running $45,000 for moving expenses and landscaping improvements, according to Niblock’s estimate.
Before they could decide, though, commissioners were asked to wait.
Landis Curry, an Ocala lawyer who has agreed to spearhead the fundraising effort to cover relocation costs, requested the board delay taking action until after the Christmas holidays.
Curry, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group, said the proposal required more analysis and public input before a decision was rendered.
"I don’t intend to go out and raise money until I know where it’s going," Curry told the commission.
He added that the pause might allow relocation proponents an opportunity to secure in-kind services or grants to offset moving costs.
Commissioners opted to hold a public hearing on the relocation in January. A date was not set.
The commission set a public hearing for proposed changes to the county’s dangerous dog regulations for 9 a.m. Dec. 18.
The board also approved acquiring land for the extension of Southwest 95th Street from 60th Avenue eastward to 49th Avenue.
The commission was briefed on a staff proposal to restart the county’s Citizens Academy, an eight-week program designed to teach residents more about how government works.
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