AUSTIN, Texas - Under the cover of darkness: the University of Texas removed statues of confederate icons and several former state leaders. U.T. President Greg Fenves said he made the decision after the outbreak of violence at the University of Virginia earlier this month when white nationalists and protesters clashed.
It was move in day at U.T. Monday morning. There was a steady flow of students, and parents, who were heading to dorms, walked by blocks of granite where several controversial statues once stood. Few, like Christine Miller who brought her daughter Lindsay to school, took notice of what was missing.
"We're focused more on the new adventure, we've heard about the controversy, listened to the news, but right now we are focused on getting her moved in and worrying about how is she going to do away from home,” said Miller.
Overnight university officials removed the statutes of CSA Generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston. Crews also took down the statues of former Governor James Hogg and Texas politician John Reagan; who served as the postmaster general of the Confederacy. U.T. President Greg Fenves issued a statement about the removal, he said in part;
"The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university's core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres. We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus."
University officials said the move was done at night to avoid possible confrontations. The only tense moment came after a small group arrived dressed in black to show their support.
"It’s a victory for our university right now that we've been working a long time to see it, so just kind of coming out here, I think it’s more of a us coming out here and appreciating what’s going on,” said UT student Isaiah Castillo.
After sunrise as crews finished their work Texas Ex- Edwin Robert Jr., expressed his displeasure with the move that happened under the cover of darkness.
"Removing them that way were the easy decision and I think the hard one should have been made, there should have been more open discussion,” said Robert.
The Confederate statues will eventually be used for academic study at UT's Briscoe Center for American History. A statue of Jefferson Davis, which was removed from the campus mall in 2015 - is currently there as part of a display.
The statues were never designed to be stand-alone monuments. They were originally made to be part of a fountain which was commissioned George Littlefiled back in the early 1900's. The project was to include a gateway arch but designer Pompeo Coppini convinced Littlefiled a fountain as a memorial to students killed in World War I would cost less.
A rendering of what it was to look like shows the statues in a semicircle, symbolic of how the war in Europe unified the country.
"Coppini was really the one who was driving this unity theme, where we bring all these statues together, to represent the reconciliation between the North and the South, Littlefiled's original idea wasn't that, we was really celebrating the lost cause,” said Briscoe Center Executive Director Don Carleton.
The statue to Governor Hogg will be relocated on campus. The granite pedestals, for the time being, will remain empty. One statue remains on the university mall it's of George Washington and officials said there are no plans to remove it.