CONFEDERATE STATUE FAQs and CHRONOLOGY

Central Thoughts                            Florida Senate Bill 472

Lake County Florida has a dark, cruel history because of the legacy of Willis V. McCall’s blatant and murderous racism.

Though taxpayer dollars support the Lake County Historical Society and Museum (LCHS&M) the decision to seek the statue was never vetted within the community. There was a secret cabal-like decision made to “go after the statue” through clandestine, “back-channel” efforts. Known to be complicit in this plan were Museum Curator Bob Grenier who is also Legionnaire in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Senator Dennis Baxley, a direct descendant of a confederate veteran, and 3 (three) elected County Commissioners.

Does Not Represent our CountyOn August 31, 2017, Bob Grenier, the Museum Curator and Eustis Commissioner (now State Representative) Anthony Sabatini began a campaign to look for homes for confederate monuments.

On September 1, 2017, Bob Grenier notifies County Commissioners that he and Senator Dennis Baxley are working to bring the confederate statue to Lake County.

Affront not only to the African Americans but a diverse community trying to erase the ugly stains of the county’s racist, bloody past particularly those embodied in the old courthouse where the statue would be headed.

The Museum Curator and three of the five Lake County Commissioners, despite resolutions opposing the statue from nine (9) municipalities representing 85% of the municipal population, still want to relocate the statue to their county’s front yard.

Gov DeSantis evidently agrees as proven in his July 10th letter to the acting Architect of the US Capitol. They want the confederate statue in in a public building, in a place of honor with the curator likening it to having “King Tut” on display. 

Museum – County Relationship

The LCHS&M is housed in a county building on county property.

Groveland FourThe LCHS&M is in the same building, the Historical Lake County Courthouse, where the former Sheriff Willis McCall ruled for over 28 years to include the horrible treatment of the Groveland Four.

The Curator, Bobby Grenier proudly sits behind McCall’s desk to conduct museum business.

The county’s annual budget includes a line item of $18,800 of taxpayer dollars to help cover the salary of the office manager. The costs for utilities, phone lines and other logistical support exceeds $100K annually.

The county has an agreement with the museum which includes a stipulation to terminate the agreement at any time, with or without cause, with 6 months’ notice.

Chronology

  • In 1922, the United Daughters of the Confederacy Commissioned and paid for a statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, to be placed in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. as one of 2 statues representing the state.South of the Deep South
  • March 10, 2016: The state passes a bill to replace the Confederate statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection. The Legislative vote came during a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols in the wake of the 2015 shooting deaths on nine (9) African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
  • Between May 18, 2016 and June 22, 2016, ad hoc Committee of the Great Floridian Program established to canvass for, receive, consider and vote on public recommendations to replace the Confederate statue. They chose Mary Mcleod Bethune, a civil rights activist and founder of Bethune Cookman College.
  • August 31, 2017: The Daily Commercial publishes article, “Sabatini, historian look for home for Confederate Monuments” which cites the then Eustis City Commissioner Anthony Sabatini and Bob Grenier, the Lake County Historical Museum Curator, as looking for places to relocate Confederate statues …maybe in Lake County. The article also stated they were drafting a letter to the United Daughters of the Confederacy to let them know they were looking for displaced statues
  • October 10, 2017: Bill introduced to replace the Confederate statue with that of Mary Mcleod Bethune.
  • October 11, 2017: News 13 Florida publishes article “Lake County Officials Seek New Homes for Veterans Monuments” which cites that 2 Lake County officials are teaming up to find a place for veteran monuments, including confederate ones.
  • During the month of Sep 2017, Bob Grenier polls the five County Commissioners to get their support and approval to bring the statue to Lake County. This polling was likely in violation of the Florida Sunshine Law which is a felony
  • November 14, 2017 and January 9, 2018: the bill to replace the confederate statue with one of Mary McLeod Bethune was presented to both the Florida Senate Committees on Appropriations and Rules. The bill contained the recommendation that the statue be removed from Statuary Hall and relocated to the Confederate Park in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Dec 2017: Bob Grenier contacts the 5 county commissioners and identifies working on getting the statue to Lake County as a “project Senator Dennis Baxley has going”. This is important because this occurs before the bill is amended on January 24, 2018.
  • January 5, 2018: As requested by Senator Baxley, Bob Grenier sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron requesting that the statue be housed in the Historical Society of Lake County.  Senator Baxley is a self-described descendant of a confederate soldier and Bob Grenier is a Legionnaire in the Sons of the Confederacy. This is important because this occurs before the bill is amended on January 24, 2018.
  • January 24, 2018: An Amendment to the bill was introduced and passed establishing that the confederate statue must be placed in a public place.  The amendment did not mention that the statue could be placed in the Confederate Park in Jacksonville which is open to the public.
  • March 19, 2018: Gov Scott signed the bill into law.
  • Mar 21, 2018: In an email to all 5 county commissioners, Bob Grenier informs them he has met with Jennifer Kennedy, the Florida Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff, along with Senator Dennis Baxley in Tallahassee. According to Grenier, “Secretary Kennedy was very excited with the presentation I made”. This is important because the official proposals were not presented until June 28, 2018. He also stated, “Sen. Baxley and I are working very hard to get this historic treasure to Lake County”
  • June 28, 2018: Bob Grenier’s proposal was 1 of 3 proposals presented to the ad hoc Statue Location Selection Committee. His written proposal included the statement that district Senator Dennis Baxley and the Florida Division Sons of Confed-erate Veterans were among his supporters. After his face-to-face presentation, Bob Grenier’s proposal was accepted.
  • June 29, 2018: Lake County residents were first alerted to the statue coming to Lake County when a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel called Pastor Mike Watkins, Friendship CME Church to get his reaction.  Prior to that call, Bob Grenier, the 5 County Commissioners, Senator Dennis Baxley, Secretary Jennifer Kennedy, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a few select others knew about the effort to bring the statue to Lake County. No one in the community was aware. No information made public by the county commissioners.
  • July 19, 2018: African American Pastor and 2 others met with Bob Grenier and Museum Board of Directors to express their concerns.  At this meeting, when asked why no members of the African American community were told about the decision to acquire the statue, they were told, it was through “back-channel efforts” because they didn’t want anyone else to know about it.
  • July 24, 2018: More than 50 individuals attend a Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting to voice their protest against bringing the statue to Lake County. At that meeting the county commissioners stated the “BCC does not decide what items are accepted into the Lake County Historical Museum” and the “BCC does not determine the Lake County Historical Society’s actions”. Local articles published stating BCC “Does about-face on confederate statue”
  • Aug 15, 2018 – June 4, 2019: Beginning with the city of Tavares, 9 out of 14 municipal cities in Lake were approached to sign resolutions against bringing the statue to Lake County. All 9 cities, representing 85% of the county’s municipal population, signed their resolutions.
  • Aug 21, 2018: A scheduled meeting between the Museum Board members and the 5 individuals opposing the relocation of the statue was cancelled. The Museum Board members, all White, were notified, the opposing representatives were met with a locked door and told it was a “snafu”.
  • January 28, 2019: Engineering Design Services study shows the weight of the statue could damage existing finishes and tiles. The floor tiles are irreplaceable. The report recommends that the county take this into consideration in regard to the placement of the statue within this building.
  • June 24, 2019: 8 of the 9 municipal cities with resolutions jointly signed a letter to Gov DeSantis requesting that he “prevent the movement of this statue to Lake County”. Their letter underscored they stand united on this divisive issue. Gov DeSantis has not responded.
  • July 10, 2019: Gov DeSantis sends a letter to the Architect of the US Capitol, as required by the Procedure and Guidelines for Replacement of Statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection, officially requesting the removal of the Confederate Statue, identifying the location where it will be displayed after removal, and identification of the replacement statue. The letter included the statement that the statue would be moved to the Lake County Historical Museum in accordance with the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs exhibition and long-term loan agreement voted on June 28, 2018. The response to a public records request for a copy of the long-term loan agreement revealed that it does not exist.
  • July 30, 2019: The Lake County Board of County Commissioners officially voted 3 to 2 to endorse the decision of the Lake County Historical Society to bring the Edmund Kirby Smith statue in the museum in the Lake County Historical Courthouse.  Note: On Sep 27, 2018 Bob Grenier sent an email to Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs stating the BCC official vote, 5-0 in favor of bringing in the statue had already taken place …10 months before the vote occurred.
  • August 10, 2019:  About 450 people representing a diverse cross section of Lake County’s population -ethnicity, age, religious, and gender – peacefully marched and rallied in Tavares to oppose a decision to bring the statue of Confederate General.