Old Joe is set to have a new home in Gainesville.
The Alachua County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 on Sept. 22 to move the 111-year-old Confederate soldier statue, known as “Old Joe,” to the Matheson Museum.
The decision comes after months of debate about the fate of the statue following the Charleston shootings in June. The statue is currently located in downtown Gainesville on Main Street.
Residents spoke for nearly two hours during the commission meeting about whether to keep the statue in place, relocate it or add a plaque that would explain the history behind it.
For Lizzie Jenkins, an Alachua County resident, speaking at the meeting was another way of demonstrating her civil activism.
“I really don’t care about Old Joe’s statue. It’s not about the statue,” said Jenkins. “It’s about who you are and how you feel about people.”
Jenkins participated in sit-ins during the civil rights movement and marched in Selma, Alabama.
Fred Donaldson’s ancestor’s name is on the plaque as one of the Confederate soldiers that fought in Alachua County. He said he was in favor of supporting the Alachua County Historical Commission’s recommendation to keep the statue in place but adding a contextual plaque to it.
“If you do move the statue to the back of the Matheson, I’m very concerned about it being desecrated,” said Donaldson.
Commissioner Ken Cornell introduced a motion to create a truth commission to create a new statue that would include a “historical timeline that explains in context why Old Joe was placed in 1904 and a progression of where we stand and have come in 2015.”
The motion was immediately struck down by Commissioner Robert Hutchinson’s substitute motion to donate the statue to the Matheson Museum. According to the decision, the statue must be on display for the public to see, and financing the move must come from private money.
Hutchinson said he would “write the first check.”
A local monument company estimated the cost of relocating the statue to a new location and landscaping the existing location to be about $11,000.
The result of the vote came as a surprise for many residents at the meeting because Commissioner Mike Byerly switched his previous opinion of keeping the statue in place to relocating it to the museum. Commissioner Lee Pinkoson and Cornell voted against donating the statue.
The board at the Matheson Museum is scheduled to meet next month to discuss whether they are going to accept the donation of the Confederate statue, said Joanna Grey, marketing and education coordinator at the museum. She said the money for the relocation of the statue will have to be raised privately through donations and public support.