Watson, a former state lawmaker, congressman and U.S. senator, was viewed by many as a hero when his statue was dedicated in 1932. He came to prominence in the late 1800s, championing the needs of poor farmers and sharecroppers of all races. That support waned with time. Watson, who owned a weekly newspaper, endorsed taking the vote from African-Americans and launched anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic diatribes in his editorials.
State officials never explicitly said when workers would remove the statue, except that it would be mid-November. As it happened, offices were closed Friday as part of the state’s belated observance of Robert E. Lee’s Jan. 19 birthday.