Atlanta City Council OKs removal of railroad statue with Confederacy ties

The statue of Samuel Spencer stands in front of the Norfolk Southern building on Peachtree Street on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.  The city owns the statue and Norfolk Southern is asking permission to store the confederate monument of their first president, until they decide what to do with it.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
The statue of Samuel Spencer stands in front of the Norfolk Southern building on Peachtree Street on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The city owns the statue and Norfolk Southern is asking permission to store the confederate monument of their first president, until they decide what to do with it. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Atlanta-based masterpiece that loosely inspired the iconic statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. is going to be removed from public view — at least temporarily.

A bronze replica of Samuel Spencer, the first president of what became the Norfolk Southern Corporation, sits in front of the rail company’s David R. Goode building in Midtown. Its sculptor, the famous Daniel Chester French, used the sitting posture of the Spencer statue design when creating the colossal Lincoln figure in 1920.

However, the company plans to move the statue into a warehouse because there is not space for it at Norfolk’s new Midtown headquarters. The statue is owned by the city, and Atlanta City Council on Monday unanimously voted to support Norfolk’s removal plans.

ExploreNorfolk Southern seeks Atlanta’s blessing to remove Confederate statue

Norfolk is paying for the move, which represents “a significant savings to the City,” according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An estimated cost for the company’s work is not available, but documents show Atlanta’s concerns with the statue’s legacy.

“This monument is now deemed controversial because it was recently published that the railroad founder had served in the Confederate Calvary. Because the historical narrative has changed recently, the best plan is to store the monument until a permanent solution for displaying the monument can be determined,” according to a legislation request to the City Council signed by Carmen Chubb, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s chief of staff.

ExplorePhotos: Confederate memorials in metro Atlanta

Spencer previously served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War long before he died at 59 in a Virginia train collision. His statue features a plaque that identifies him as a Georgian, a Confederate soldier and the first president of Southern Railway.

The statue’s removal comes amid an ongoing debate surrounding the nation’s legacy with Confederate imagery and the dialogue on systemic racism. In February, Democratic state lawmakers announced new bills in an effort to prohibit Confederate monuments across Georgia.

The city’s future plans for the statue are unclear.

The statue of Samuel Spencer stands in front of the Norfolk Southern building on Peachtree Street on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.  The city owns the statue and Norfolk Southern is asking permission to store the confederate monument of their first president, until they decide what to do with it.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
The statue of Samuel Spencer stands in front of the Norfolk Southern building on Peachtree Street on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The city owns the statue and Norfolk Southern is asking permission to store the confederate monument of their first president, until they decide what to do with it. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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