Statue of Racist Former Mississippi Gov. Quietly Removed From State Capitol

A statue of Theodore Bilbo, a former Mississippi governor and U.S. Senator who preached racist and white supremacist rhetoric has been removed from its place in a state House committee room where it's been since the 1980s, and no one seems to know who moved it, when or where it has been moved to.

The removal of the statue is the latest in a string of hundreds of monuments to historical figures with offensive beliefs being relocated or taken down across the U.S. Newsweek reported in September that over 200 Confederate monuments had been removed or relocated since the May 2020 death of George Floyd.

Bilbo served as governor of Mississippi from 1916-20 and 1928-32 before also serving as a U.S. senator from 1935 until he died in 1947. His statue sat in the Capitol rotunda for years until renovations of the building in the 1980s caused its move into a House committee room, according to The Associated Press.

The statue has reportedly been absent from that room since the beginning of the current legislative session that opened January 4, and lawmakers only began to notice its absence this week, according to Mississippi Today.

Several Democrat and Republican lawmakers said this week that they hadn't noticed the statue's apparent departure and weren't currently aware of where it had been moved to, the AP and Mississippi Today reported.

Mississippi Today also reported that the room where the statue once stood is a frequent meeting place of the Republican caucus of the House and the Legislative Black Caucus, the latter of which has reportedly asked for the statue to be removed for years because of Bilbo's racist beliefs, but have never received a response.

Mississippi Theodore Bilbo Racist Statue Removal
A statue of the late Gov. Theodore Gilmore Bilbo stands out from the back of a first floor conference room at the Capitol January 22, 2009 in Jackson, Miss. The statue was quietly moved out of sight in the state Capitol in recent months — a move praised by Black lawmakers who say a politician who built a career on racist rhetoric never deserved a place of prominence. Rogelo V. Solis/Associated Press File

Bilbo fought key civil rights legislation with distinct racial rhetoric while in office.

"If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold," Bilbo said during a filibuster while opposing an anti-lynching bill in the Senate, according to Mississippi Today. "and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate."

Bilbo's final Senate campaign in 1946 also resulted in a complaint, investigated by other Senators, from several Black Mississippians who alleged that he used his "inflammatory appeals" to encourage violence against Black people to discourage them from voting.

The AP reported that lawmakers frequently hung coats and purses from the outstretched right arm of the statue before its disappearance, as the 5-foot-2, approximately life-size statue was reportedly not a "revered art piece" in the room. Its removal comes after large shifts across the country.

For instance, late last year, the Robert E. Lee statue that had stood for over 130 years in Richmond, Virginia was removed following a lengthy debate over whether it should remain, according to WRIC-TV.

In the summer of 2021, the U.S. House voted to remove all Confederate statues and monuments from the Capitol by a vote of 285-120, according to NPR.