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Lake County history museum hopes to exhibit replica of U.S. Capitol's Bethune statue

Florida Photographic Collection
State Archives of Florida
Florida Photographic Collection

A statue of Mary McLeod Bethune could take the place once planned for a Confederate general in the Lake County history museum, just as a larger version of the statue will replace him in the U.S. Capitol.

[caption id="attachment_176449" align="alignleft" width="288"]

Mary McLeod Bethune is pictured circa 1920.
Photo: State Library and Archives of Florida[/caption]

Lake County Commission Chairman Sean Parks is delighted with this chance to move on from what he calls the "bad news" of the Edmund Kirby Smith statue.

Property Appraiser Carey Baker told commissioners recently that sculptor Nilda Comas offered to make a smaller version of her statue for the historical society.

Bethune, a civil rights leader and educator, is replacing the general as one of two honored Floridians in Statuary Hall. Baker says their version will be carved from the same marble, from caves once used by Michelangelo.

"And she has only offered this to us and no one else," he said.

The commission's 2019 decision to allow the general's statue in the museum in its old courthouse prompted outrage. A year later, they withdrew the invitation.

Parks says this statue will do the opposite.

"This," Parks says, "has the potential to really draw a lot of positive attention towards our county."

He says this time the process will be transparent.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.