Statue of Virginia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd, a known segregationist, to be removed Wednesday

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The bronze statue of Virginia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. which stands on Capitol Square will be removed by the state Wednesday.

Byrd was a known segregationist who called for Massive Resistance. The policy was aimed at blocking racial integration in Virginia schools following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling that established racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

U.S. Sen. Harry Flood Byrd. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

The statue’s removal comes after a bill was passed by the General Assembly in February.

Byrd, a Democrat, served a term as governor of Virginia from 1926 to 1930. He then was appointed as a U.S. Senator in 1933 and was re-elected six times.

The former governor and U.S. senator was an advocate of “pay-as-you-go” financial policies. He became known for his support of reduced federal spending, balanced budgets and state’s rights.

However, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for schools to be racially integrated in 1954, Sen. Byrd called for what became known as Massive Resistance. The racist policy was intended to block the integration of Virginia schools.

Agreeing with Sen. Byrd, Virginia Gov. Thomas B. Stanley appointed a commission to explore options to resist the Brown decision.

The Commonwealth passed a group of laws that granted tuition to students who opposed integrated schools and cut off state funds to any public school that attempted to integrate, forcing them to close.

The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that Massive Resistance was unconstitutional and Virginia complied.

The statue of Byrd in Capitol Square was erected in 1976, 10 years after his death, at private expense.

The General Assembly passed a law this year directing the Virginia Department of General Services, or DGS, to remove the statue.

After the bill passed, its sponsor, Del. Jay Jones, said in a statement, “Racism and its symbols, obvious and subtle, have no place in this new Virginia decade. Monuments to segregation, Massive Resistance, and the subjugation of one race below another, such as the Byrd statue, serve only as a reminder of the overt and institutional racism that has and continues to plague our Commonwealth. It’s long past time to bring them down, and I’m proud to be a voice to do just that.”

The statue will be removed by DGS Wednesday morning. A portion of Capitol Square will be blocked off to ensure visitor safety.

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