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Confederate Statue Removal Leaves New View Of Cheapside

Karyn Czar
The Lexington statue of Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge is attached to a transport truck on October 17, 2017.

The twin Confederate monuments at the heart of Lexington have been removed. The surprise conclusion to a years-long public debate happened relatively swiftly and without fanfare Tuesday evening.

For Lexington, all eyes had been the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, which had yet to give its blessing to the Urban County Council's unanimous vote in favor of relocation. And that made the appearance of a crane on the old Fayette Courthouse lawn a shock for many who gathered peacefully near Cheapside Park, once a major pre-Civil War slave trading post.

Rachel – she preferred with we stick with her first name – watched from across the street as the statue of Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge was hoisted off the pedestal, placed on a transport truck, and wrapped in a blue tarp.

"I can't believe it's finally happening," she said. "It's kind of surreal. I'm just blown away really."

She said the sight made her proud of the city she calls home.

"I think it says that Lexington is willing to move forward, despite any opposition they might face," she added.

The move came about because of a plot twist few saw coming. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear issued an opinion Tuesday morning, saying back in 2003 then-Mayor Teresa Isaac did not seek council approval when she placed the statues under the jurisdiction of the Heritage Commission.

"And so the Attorney General ruled that move as invalid, which freed us up to be able to relocate and move the statues tonight," city spokesperson Kenny Bishop explained.

It’s a decision that didn’t sit well with everyone on hand.

"I feel that the mayor went on his own, asked for no opinions from the public, and no one finds out about it until Tuesday night after they get home from work when there's no time to talk about it," said observer Gary Roland.

But no one WUKY spoke with disputed that the removal marks a turning point for Lexington, one that now leaves city residents with a new view of a very old, historic space.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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