A one-sentence letter last week was the final nail in the coffin for “Old Joe.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy — a nationwide heritage group of Southern women — took ownership of the controversial Confederate soldier statue, commonly referred to as “Old Joe,” last week. For the past 113 years, the statue has stood tall outside the Alachua County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville.
On May 23, the Alachua County Commissioners voted to remove “Old Joe” from its current location and offered it to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who originally erected the statue in 1904.
The board gave the Confederate group 60 days to respond. Fifty days later — on July 12 — they got their answer in the form of a six-word letter:
“We accept the Confederate Soldier Statue.”
The Confederate heritage group has an additional 60 days to remove the statue from county grounds, Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles said. After the removal, the women may do whatever they wish with “Old Joe,” Peebles said.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy could not be reached for comment.
Peebles said that “replacement” art will fill the vacancy once “Old Joe” has left for good. On Aug. 16, Peebles will discuss ideas for the new artwork with the Art in Public Places Program, a five-member board that recommends artwork to the County Commission on public projects.
“Old Joe” was originally intended to commemorate those who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. To some, it was a symbol of a lingering racism.
For those familiar with downtown Gainesville, the statue was sometimes a source of serious community tension.
On the same day the commissioners voted to give the Daughters the statue, about 200 people gathered around the base of the statue in protest, where a Gainesville resident was arrested for spitting on a President Donald Trump supporter, according to Alligator archives.
After their meeting with Peebles, the Art in Public Places Program will allow local artists to submit their ideas for the space. They will then narrow down the local submissions, and the County Commission will make the ultimate decision, Peebles said.
“The artwork will reflect the shared values of the community,” she said.
The Old Joe Statue.