/The missing Bilbo statue was first moved by Gov William Winter

The missing Bilbo statue was first moved by Gov William Winter

Andy Mullins, then a special assistant for the governor at that time, said “I was there when he did it.” Mississippi Today reports that the Bilbo statue, which had been in room 113 at the Capitol since the 1980s’ football Saturday, mysteriously vanished. No one has claimed responsibility for the removal of the statue as of Friday afternoon. Its whereabouts remain unknown. READ MORE: Bilbo missing from Capitol Bilbo The statue of a racist former governor is missing from Capitol Bilbo served two terms in Mississippi as governor in the 1920s, 30s, and was elected to three terms as U.S. Senator. He was known for his egregiously racist acts, including advocating the deportation to Africa of Black Americans and fighting national efforts to pass anti-lynching legislation. Since the 1950s, the bronze statue of Bilbo in the Capitol Rotunda had been prominently displayed. The statue’s first major upheaval came in the 1980s. The Capitol building was shut down for major renovations at that time. During the renovation, the Legislature met just blocks from Jackson at the former Central High School. Mullins remembered the then-Gov. Winter stated that he wanted to see the Capitol’s renovation. Mullins stated that Winter entered the Capitol and looked at the Bilbo statue inside the rotunda. He then told workers he wanted it moved somewhere less visible. Mullins, a retired resident of Oxford, said that workers looked at him as if he were crazy. He had served in various education-related positions in state government, including chief of staff to University of Mississippi chancellor. Mullins stated that the governor had told workers that he wanted the statue to be moved by the time he returned from the football game. “It wasn’t moved when he returned to the building commissioner.” He called the building commissioner and said he wanted the statue to be moved. The Capitol was reopened in 1982. It was moved to room 113, which is the largest House committee room. However, in the early 1980s room 113 was much less used due to the increase in legislative committee action. In 1947, Bilbo succumbed to throat cancer after his latest election win. His colleague tried to prevent him from being seated in the Senate. A joint resolution was adopted in 1948 by the Mississippi Legislature to honor Bilbo. It established a commission to commemorate the former governor. The effort was funded by both state funds and private donations. The effort’s finance chair was Heber Ladner (a long-standing Secretary of State), who, like Bilbo, hails from Pearl River County. Fritz Behn (German artist) was asked to create the bronze statue of Bilbo. According to some accounts, he stood approximately 5 feet 2 inches. On April 12, 1954, the statue was unveiled at the Capitol. Ladner delivered the memorial address. It was interesting that Ladner’s lengthy tenure as secretary-of-state had just ended when Winter became governor, and he took the bold step of moving the statue. Mullins claimed that Winter, who later apologized for his earlier segregationist views but was still a close friend of Bilbo, spoke on the political trail with Bilbo. “Gov. Mullins stated that Winter wasn’t a fan of Bilbo. Bilbo said once on the U.S. Senate’s floor: “The Germans understand the importance of race values. They realize that racial improvements are the greatest asset any country can have…. They also know that the impoverishment and destruction of race values is more damaging to a society than any other agency. While all governors have portraits inside the Capitol, only Thomas Bailey and Bilbo had statues. Before it was recently returned to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, there was a statue of Bailey in room 113.