Statue of Georgia firebrand Watson removed from state Capitol

Dec. 1, 2013 at 11:51 AM

ATLANTA, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A work crew has completed the removal of a controversial statue from the steps of Georgia's Capitol, state officials said.

The bronze likeness of former U.S. Sen. Tom Watson, who once advocated stripping black residents of their right to vote, was bundled up in moving blankets Friday and removed from the Capitol steps by a crane.

The statue will be permanently relocated to a park across the street from the Capitol in Atlanta.

Watson has a mixed reputation in Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Sunday. He was a state lawmaker and editor in the 1880s who led a populist campaign to better the lot of sharecroppers and farmers of all races.

His career, however, degenerated in later years when he began churning out racially tinged editorials in his weekly newspaper that lambasted Jews and Catholics.

The removal of the statue, which was dedicated in 1932, was cheered by the Anti-Defamation League but protested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Gov. Nathan Deal said he authorized the removal of the statue for safety reasons because the steps beneath it had deteriorated and will need to be rebuilt.

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