Historic Preservation Commission Okays Removal Of Taney, Johnson Busts From City Hall

They will be relocated to Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Frederick, Md (KM)  The Roger Brook Taney and Thomas Johnson busts in front of Frederick City Hall will be relocated. On Thursday evening, the Historic District Commission approved the removal of the two busts. The vote was 4-1 with Commission member Alan Miner opposed.

Nikki Bamonti, Executive Assistant to the Mayor, says the two busts will have a new home at Mount Olivet Cemetery. “The cemetery staff have agreed to store the busts in a protected space, most likely indoors,  to complete the necessary repair and restoration work, while they finalize the plans for installation of the monuments on the cemetery grounds,” she said.

Bamonti told the HPC that any final decision on where to place them will be made by the cemetery staff and the Mount Olivet Board.

There have been calls to remove the Taney bust from in front of city hall because he wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857 which said that African-Americans, whether enslaved or free, have no rights that Caucasians need to respect. It’s considered one of the events which led to the Civil War.

The ruling was overturned after Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution which ended slavery.

Last year, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously in favor of removing the Taney bust.

During Thursday’s public hearing, opinions pro and con were expressed about the removal of the busts. Gerald Palm, whose African-American, says he feels uncomfortable walking past the Taney bust when he comes to city hall. “I come here to pay my taxes, my insurance, my water bill. And this man that’s outside represents a hate speaker,” he said.

Rose Chaney, whose also African-American,  said this bust is offensive to African-Americans. “It’s time for Frederick City to do the right thing, and move the bust. It’s a symbol of the belief that not all men are created equally,” she said. “To have that remain is an insult to our diverse community.”

But there were those who testified in favor of keeping the busts in front of city hall, including Margarete Sharp, who said both men are part of our history. “I think both of the gentlemen belong in the front here because they have a lesson to teach us, and it’s part of our country’s growing up,” she said.

Robert Higby hopes that removing these busts is not hiding these two men from history. “I hope that we do not replace what I call historical correctness–which we’ve always maintained here in Frederick–by political correctness which seems to be the big fad right now,” he said.

No timetable was announced for the relocation of the busts to Mount Olivet Cemetery.

By Kevin McManus