Statue of John Lewis to be erected where confederate obelisk once stood

A statue of John Lewis will replace the space where a confederate monument once stood in Georgia.

World-renowned sculptor Basil Watson has been tasked with creating the statue of the civil rights legend, which is expected to be finalised by 2024, CNN reported.

The 16-ft-tall statue will be erected in the congressional district in Decatur that Lewis represented for 17 terms. Previously in that location, there was a Confederate Obelisk standing there for more than 100 years until it was removed in 2020.

“A monument that represented bigotry, division and hatred will be replaced, by a monument to a man who loved, who cherished this nation and brought all people of all colors together,” DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said during a ceremony on 29 December.

The memorial will be located on the walkway approaching the Historic Decatur Courthouse, according to the John Lewis Tribute website.

The statue placed there before was a 30-foot stone obelisk erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908.

Following the murder of George Floyd and calls from Beacon Hill Decatur and Decatur High School students, Superior Court Justice Clarence Seeliger ordered the removal of the obelisk on 18 June 2020.

In 2021, the John Lewis Commemorative Taskforce announced plans to build a tribute for the veteran congressman. The committee put out a national call for artists and announced on Thursday that Mr Watson had been chosen.

Mr Watson is originally from Jamaica but has worked in Atlanta for the last two decades.

“I am very proud and find it a distinct honor to be chosen to reflect John Lewis,” Mr Watson told Alive11 News. “I’m hoping, is a meaningful contribution to the story of Civil Rights and justice and equality in... not just Atlanta, but in the United States and in the world.”

The sculptor, who has previously been commissioned to work on statues of several high-profile figures including Martin Luther King and Usain Bolt, said that he had briefly met Lewis before his death in 2020.

“Everyone was so excited. We spoke for maybe 30 seconds, but he left an impression,” Mr Watson said at the ceremony after it was announced he was commissioned. “The John Lewis story is a powerful story that needs to be told,”

Lewis served nearly three decades representing Georgia’s 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was often hailed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “the conscience of Congress” for his unwavering commitment to his constituents.