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Plans to move Confederate statue from Houston to Port Arthur on hold

The Dick Dowling and Spirit of Confederacy statues will not be placed in Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Controversial plans to move a Confederate statue from Houston to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site in Port Arthur is no longer being considered by the Texas Historical Commission, 12News has learned. 

The THC was set to discuss accepting a statue of Dick Dowling, an artillery officer of the Confederate States Army who led the Battle of Sabine Pass in 1863, during a meeting this week. 

That item has now been removed from the agenda. 

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner is having the Dowling statue removed from Hermann Park on June 19, the Juneteenth holiday that memorializes the day slaves learned they were granted freedom. Turner was planning to give the statue to the THC to be relocated to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, where a different statue of Dowling already sits. 

Credit: KHOU

Turner began looking at removing the Dowling statue and other Confederate monuments in Houston when he appointed a task force in 2017. That task force made up of historians, community leaders and city directors have been reviewing the city's inventory of items related to the Confederacy and recommend appropriate action. 

The task force's momentum has increased over the past several weeks in the wake of the George Floyd police killing. 

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"While we have been working on a plan for some time, I have decided to move forward now considering the events of the past several weeks," Turner said. "Our plan for relocating Confederate statues from public parks to locations more relevant to modern times preserves history and provides an opportunity for our city to heal.”

Plans to move the Dowling statue to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site caught Port Arthur mayor Thurman Bartie off guard last week. Bartie wanted the THC to consider not adding the statue to Sabine Pass. 

"I think that’s totally disrespectful for some society to make a decision for something to be placed here during a time that we are in civil unrest," Bartie told the Beaumont Enterprise.

RELATED: Port Arthur mayor angry over planned move of Confederate statue from Houston park to Sabine Pass historic site

Port Arthur has been making moves to erase scars the Civil War has had on the city. In 2018, the Port Arthur Independent School District removed Dick Dowling and Robert E. Lee from school names. The schools are now named Port Acres Elementary and Lakeview Elementary.

RELATED: The Port Arthur ISD school board votes to change the names of confederate named elementary schools

Houston leaders are still planning to remove the Dowling statue and another statue called the Spirit of the Confederacy. That statue, a bronze angel with a sword and palm branch, sits at Sam Houston Park. Both will likely be moved to a city storage facility. 

"I always ask people, what are you really preserving with those statues? And what’s been really preserved is the confederacy," Dr. Toniesha Taylor, with Texas Southern University, said. "Things end up in museums when their moment is over."

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