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St. John's Offers to Take Confederate Monument

St. John's Cemetery Foundation

If the decision is made to relocate the Confederate monument in downtown Pensacola, there’s at least one possible suitor — St. John’s Cemetery.

“The location that we proposed the statue should be at the cemetery – there are a series of roundabouts in the middle of the cemetery,” said St. John’s Foundation President Eric Stevenson. “And we have proposed putting it in the first roundabout in the older section of the cemetery.”

Stevenson is making the request to Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson and the City Council, which will meet on July 16on what to do with the 129-year-old structure now at Lee Square.

“It’s also closer to where there are some Confederate graves, and so being in that location probably makes the most sense to have a memorial to the Confederate dead there,” Stevenson said.

St. John's website lists more than 80 Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, buried there since it opened in 1876. In a letter sent to the mayor and council, Stevenson said it contains the highest number of Confederate soldiers and generals buried in a public cemetery in Florida – and that placing the statue there would be consistent with that part of Pensacola’s heritage.

It’s not the first attempt to lure the monument to St. John’s.

“I actually talked with the mayor; he asked if the offer that we had made back in 2017 was still available — I told him it was,” said Stevenson. “We’re not taking a position one way or the other, as a cemetery, on whether it should be taken down. But we did think that if they were looking for a place to put it, that the cemetery would be an appropriate place.”

Many residents have strong feelings — on both sides — about the monument’s future; Stevenson says he understands.

“As the cemetery board, we have probably all different opinions on different things,” Stevenson said. “Our goal with the cemetery is to honor the dead; and to give a place for folks to come and be able to see people and see monuments to people that are important to them. That’s why it’s important to us.”

So far, there’s been no negative feedback about the proposed move according to Stevenson.

“All we’re heard is positive, maybe even from people who think it should go away,” Stevenson said. “I’ve heard them say, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable location.’”

But is it an actual Civil War memorial, or a product of Jim Crow? Some historians contend that Confederate monuments erected in the late 19th century, decades after the actual conflict, were aimed at intimidating African-Americans.

“We’ve discussed that as a board; we know that that’s an issue,” said Stevenson. “We haven’t heard anything from anyone in the community that they think placing it at the cemetery would endorse that position. It’s up to the city to make the decision whether they want to bring it to the cemetery. I think the politics behind that really need to rest with our elected officials.”

If the monument is moved to St. John’s, the board is asking the city to continue to own and maintain it, due to what Stevenson calls the “limited resources of the St. John's Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund."