RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond judge has ruled that the city will decide where the A.P. Hill statue will go once it’s removed, clearing the way for its plan to donate the monument to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.
The city and four “collateral descendants,” people with a common ancestor but who do not descend directly from Hill, went to court in late September over the case.
Both sides agreed that Richmond’s plan to move Hill’s remains to Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper should be allowed to move forward. Their dispute was over what to do with the last city-owned Confederate monument still standing.
While other Confederate monuments in Richmond have been removed, the fate of A.P. Hill was complicated due to the general’s remains being buried beneath the statue. This required the city to get a court order to remove the remains.
Hill’s indirect descendants did not oppose that plan but did challenge the city’s effort to donate it to the museum. They sought to relocate the monument to Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper near the Fairview Cemetery.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. said he would consider the arguments and make a decision on the city’s petition in 30 days. On Tuesday, Cheek ruled in favor of the city and granted its petition.
“The Court finds that the City is within its rights to determine the final placement of the A.P. Hill monument. The Court does not seek to inform the City of any final disposition of the monument site; nor does it believe that the Court has the power to do so,” Cheek wrote in an Oct. 25 opinion letter. “Rather, the placement and housing of the monument are the City’s to determine.”
An appeal could be filed in the case but in a statement, Mayor Levar Stoney called the ruling “the last stand for the Lost Cause in our city.”
“We look forward to a successful conclusion of the legal process, which will allow us to relocate Hill’s remains, remove and transfer the statue to the Black History Museum and, importantly, improve traffic safety at the intersection of Hermitage and Laburnum,” Stoney said Tuesday.
In court last month, the descendants’ attorney argued that the statue is a public cemetery and grave marker, not a war memorial, giving them the authority to decide where it should be moved and not the city.
Robert Rolfe, an attorney with the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP representing the city, argued Richmond owns the monument because it has been solely responsible for maintaining the statute.
The location of the statue, at the intersection of W. Laburnum Ave. and Hermitage Road, presents a traffic concern, the city also argued in court.
Judge Cheek sided with the city, writing in his opinion that Richmond has the authority to decide where the monument is moved. He also agreed that the monument is not considered a cemetery and that Hill’s indirect descendants did not prove they had ownership of the site.
“Today’s decision does not deprive Respondents of the ability to commemorate their ancestor. Pursuant to the Relocation Plan, A.P. Hill’s remains will reside where he was born and near a battlefield where he fought,” Cheek wrote.