Texas Supreme Court Tosses Confederate Statue Lawsuit Against UT

The University of Texas at Austin is the flagship of America’s wealthiest public university system. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Austin, TX

The Texas Supreme Court dismissed a 2015 lawsuit filed against the University of Texas and President Greg Fenves over the removal of the historical bronze statue of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis.

On Friday, the state’s highest court announced the decision without comment. This upheld a 2016 Texarkana Sixth Court of Appeals ruling that plaintiffs Sons of Confederate Veterans and Steven Littlefield, a descendant of Confederate officer George Littlefield, had no standing to sue UT-Austin and Fenves over the statue’s removal.

In December of 2015, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Littlefield sued the university and Fenves over the decision to remove the statue of Davis from the South Mall on August 30. Since 1933, it sat prominently on campus in front of the school’s famous clock tower.

The Confederate heritage group expressed disappointment over the high court’s decision, arguing they had grounds to sue and would have won had the court reviewed the case. Breitbart Texas reported that a donation from the Littlefield estate, a major UT-Austin donor, paid for the statue. The Sons of Confederate Veterans believed moving the statue violated the intent of the donor.

“In their refusal to openly discuss the merits of the case, the high court has paid our position the highest possible compliment, because our position in the law was unassailable and could have been defeated only by a refusal to consider,” said Justice C.L. Ray, Sons of Confederate Veterans lead counsel, according to the Daily Texan.

University spokesman J.B. Bird told the Austin American-Statesman: “UT believed our position before the court was strong and we are pleased with the court’s action.”

In 2015, Fenves noted: “Jefferson Davis had few ties to Texas but played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.”

The statue remained shuttered until April 2017 when it reemerged as part of the Exploring the American South educational exhibit at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History on the UT-Austin campus.

The university’s 2015 campaign to remove Confederate statues originated with campus student government in March. That effort gained steam after the horrific June 17 deadly attack on black church parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina. Breitbart Texas reported extensively on UT student protests calling for removal of these monuments. Several were vandalized repeatedly.

Two years ago, UT-Austin also removed a statue of past U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for reasons of architectural symmetry. It stood side-by-side with Davis in the mall, Breitbart Texas reported.

Last month, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Littlefield again sued UT-Austin and Fenves following middle-of-the-night removals of the remaining four historical southern statues on the mall. Their August 23 lawsuit purported the university reneged on its agreement to uphold “the Southern perspective of American history,” a provision spelled out in Littlefield’s will and other documents in return for donations to the school, according to the Daily Texan.

The shelved figures depicted Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Reagan, and Albert Sidney Johnston, plus the first native Texas governor, James Hogg, who had no connection to the Confederacy. The Texas State Historical Association documented that Hogg’s father served as a brigadier general for the South during the Civil War.

In a statement, Fenves wrote the “Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

On August 12, violent clashing between white nationalist protesters and leftist Antifa counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, triggered this wave of sentiment to erase all Confederate historical symbols and figures.

Fenves noted that the Confederate statues would be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center for scholarly study. The likeness of Hogg will be “considered for re-installation at another campus site.”

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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