Littlefield descendant sues Fenves for Confederate statue removal

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A statue of Albert Sidney Johnston, a general in the Confederate Army, on the Main Mall. On Sunday President Fenves announced that the statue and two other statues of Confederate leaders would be removed immediately and relocated to the Briscoe Center.
Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Steven Littlefield, a descendant of Major George Washington Littlefield, is suing UT-Austin president Gregory Fenves for taking down the four statues Littlefield donated to the University a century ago.

Filed Wednesday in the U.S. Western District Court, the lawsuit states that the University is no longer maintaining its agreement to uphold the “Southern perspective of American history” in return for monetary and land donations to the school.

The lawsuit also states “Pres. Fenves’ removal of the statues abridged petitioners’ minority political speech.” With this, the suit cited the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court Case Texas v. Johnson that barred public officials from prohibiting “political speech in a public forum under its control.”

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, said Fenves consulted with a number of people prior to ordering the statue removal. She also said the decision was legally sound.

Fenves removed the statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John H. Reagan and James Stephen Hogg from the South Mall on Sunday evening. In an email sent to the University the night of Aug. 20, Fenves said the historical significance of the statues was “severely compromised by what they symbolize.”

Fenves’ decision to remove the statues followed a wave of Confederate statue removals across the country in places such as Baltimore and the state of Virginia.

The attack in Charlottesville which left left one dead and 19 injured after a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters led to Fenves’ decision to remove the four confederate statues from the South Mall.

“These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” Fenves said in the email.

Steven Littlefield is joined in the lawsuit by David McMahon, commander of the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Kirk Lyons, who also filed a lawsuit in 2015 to bar Fenves from removing statues of Jefferson Davis and President Woodrow Wilson from the South Mall. Both statues have since been removed, and Davis’ statue was restored and placed inside the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History for viewing.

To read the full lawsuit, click here