AUGUSTA, Maine — The Kennebec County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to relocate the bronze statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville Fuller. The statue currently rests on county property, in front of the Kennebec County Courthouse.
The statue of Augusta-born U.S. Supreme Court justice was erected in 2013. His complicated legacy is rooted in his 'Plessy v. Ferguson' decision, which institutionalized the “separate but equal” doctrine and racial discrimination in the United States for about six decades.
Commissioner Patsy Crockett says, "This court ruling helped to create decades of racial segregation and I don't believe that we in Kennebec County should convey to others in any way that we support that court decision."
Commissioner Geroge Jabar says, "After listening to everything I do not believe it's appropriate. I am hoping that we can find a place that can still recognize his accomplishments that he's done throughout the years. I simply do not believe in front of a judicial center is the place to have that statue."
The county commissioners would like to move the statue to a location where it can be used for education, provided for historical context.
"The statue should be moved to a location more appropriate where it can serve for educational purposes and where the full history of his life can be discussed," says Crockett.
The decision follows a public hearing back in December, and weeks of reading and considering input from others.
County Adminstor Robert Devlin says, "Over the last several weeks, I've received literally dozens, dozens of letters."
Commissioners say most of that feedback favored moving the statue, but not destroying it. Jabar says, "I think there is a place for the Chief Justice in Maine history. He's got a rich history and he certainly did a lot of successful things that I believe that deserves to be recognized."
The debate over the statue began last August, at the same time protests spurred discussions about race, and demands that statues linked to the Confederacy and the Jim Crow era be brought down.
Fuller was born in 1833 in Augusta and he served as a Supreme Court justice for more than two decades, from 1888 to 1910.
The statue was a gift from Fuller’s decedent, Robert Fuller, estimated to be worth $40,000.
The County Commissioners are creating an internal group that will work to determine where the statue will be moved.