Virginia GOP delegate tries to kill own bill to remove Democratic segregationist statue

A Virginia GOP delegate is trying to kill his own bill that would remove a statue of the Democrat and segregationist Harry Byrd.

Del. Wendell Walker (R) introduced a bill to remove the tribute to former governor and U.S. senator in Richmond, after a Democratic push to remove Confederate statues in the state, reported The News & Advance, a Lynchburg, Va., newspaper. 

“The reason I put that in was more of a political reason,” Walker said of the reasoning behind wanting to kill the proposal, according to the newspaper.

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Walker offered his bill in response to Democratic efforts to remove Confederate statues across the state, including the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol building. These controversial efforts have sparked protests, including in Charlottesville in 2017 after the town decided to take down its statue of Lee.

After Democratic delegates expressed their support for Walker's bill, he requested the bill no longer be considered, as he did not want the statue to actually be taken down.  

“I think history is very important, whether it’s good, bad or ugly,” Walker said, according to the paper. “I was not willing to allow the governor to have the opportunity to remove statues.”

The Virginia House Rules Committee voted to let the bill go by for the day instead of removing it as Walker wanted, with Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D) saying she wants to hear the delegate’s reasoning on why he wants to kill the bill. 

Two other bills were struck at the request of their sponsors following Walker’s legislation.

Byrd, who was governor from 1926 to 1930, led the massive resistance in the state during the 1950s and 1960s against school integration after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the Supreme Court.

Virginia elected a Democratic majority legislature in 2019, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he backs legislation to relocate Confederate monuments and to swap out the Lee statue from the Capitol. But not all Democrats back the effort to remove the statue, with state Sen. Chap Petersen (D) saying he’s “very uncomfortable with a lot of what’s going on,” regarding Confederate statues, according to The Washington Post.

Two people from the Capitol Square Preservation Council previously said in a Roanoke Times op-ed that they would like the plaque by the statue which celebrates Byrd to be replaced with the “true story.”