Statue of Confederate commander Dick Dowling removed from Hermann Park

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayor Sylvester Turner was asked on Thursday when the statue of Confederate Commander Dick Dowling would be removed from Hermann Park.

"Soon," he replied.

Even as he answered, crews were at the park on Thursday, preparing to dismantle the statute that was erected 115 years ago.

The Dowling statue was one of two identified by the city as candidates for removal three years ago when there were protests over the presence of icons of the Confederacy through the south.

Hurricane Harvey created more urgent needs, but the death of George Floyd, and new calls from the Black Lives Matter movement, renewed the calls to remove them from public spaces.

For African Americans, the reverence for the Confederacy represents racism, slavery, and a painful past with ties to the present.

Wednesday night, the statue called "Spirit of the Confederacy" was removed from Heritage Park near City Hall.

It will be temporarily housed in a city warehouse and cleaned before being reinstalled at Houston's Museum of African American Culture.

While it might seem like an unlikely location, CEO Emeritus John Guess calls it, "a teachable moment."

"Possession of this negatively impactful symbol takes its power away from it," he explained. "In doing so, we don't have a situation where people are afraid of it."

The Dowling statue is instead being placed in a city storage warehouse when it's dismantled.

The Texas Historical Commission chose not to vote on accepting the donation of the statue, which would have allowed it to be relocated to the Sabine Pass Battleground Historical Site in Port Arthur.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Barie said, "I don't think we want it. I would have protested in whatever way would be necessary to stop the statue from coming or being delivered."

The question is whether the Dowling statue can find a new place to be displayed.

Judging from John Guess, that could be a challenge.

"We did get a call from the Daughters of the Confederacy asking if we wanted more [statues]. We politely said, no, we're okay. We're good."

Follow Deborah Wrigley on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.