The District’s congressional delegate is calling for the statue of a Confederate general located on federal land near Judiciary Square to be taken away from its current site in the 300 block of Indiana Avenue NW. On Tuesday, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation that would direct the secretary of the U.S. Interior Department—which oversees federally owned green spaces in D.C.—to remove the more than century-old statue memorializing Albert Pike.
In proposing her bill, Norton said she had met with the Freemasons, who contributed most of the original money needed to erect the statue in 1901 and who have said they support its removal. (Pike was a Mason and resided in the District.) Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council backed removing the statue in 2017, following outcry by racial justice activists who protested at the statue after deadly violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, that year.
The bill has been referred to the House committee on natural resources, chaired by Arizona Democrat Raúl Grijalva. It would not allow federal funds to be used on the statue’s removal, and Norton said she did not support the statue being demolished. “I oppose tearing down Confederate statues, because I believe they should be moved to more appropriate settings, like museums, to avoid erasing an important part of history from which Americans must continue to learn,” she said in her statement. She added that Pike should not be honored:
“Pike was a Confederate general who served dishonorably and was forced to resign in disgrace. It was found that soldiers under his command mutilated the bodies of Union soldiers, and Pike was ultimately imprisoned after his fellow officers reported that he misappropriated funds. Adding to the dishonor of taking up arms against the United States, Pike dishonored even his Confederate military service. He certainly has no claim to be memorialized in the nation’s capital. Even those who do not want Confederate statues removed will have to justify awarding Pike any honor, considering his history.”
Congress authorized the statue in 1898 and federal funds helped bankroll its construction. Pike’s body is interred at the Scottish Rite’s “House of the Temple,” at 1733 16th Street NW.