The history behind the Edward Carmack statue torn down during protest

Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-06 12:17:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The statue of Edward Carmack, an early 1900s politician, was toppled on Capitol Hill during Saturday's destructive riot.

The statue was thrown off of its base, but in order to determine what the future of the statue holds, perhaps we need to look in the past.

Carmack is someone most people have never heard of, according to Senior Curator for the Tennessee State Museum, Jim Hoobler. Carmack was a newspaper editor in Nashville and Memphis in the late 1800s.

Hoobler says Carmack wrote a scathing editorial endorsing some lynchings of black men trying to establish a grocery store in a Memphis neighborhood.

"A mob formed, hauled them out and lynched them. Carmack endorses that. Ida B. Wells decried that, they were friends of hers," he said.

Carmack then turned his pen against Ida B. Wells, an early figure in the civil rights movement, for writing editorials in her own paper about the lynchings.

"He incited a mob to “get the black winch.” She was out of town on a speaking tour and they burned the newspaper she worked in. She never came back to Memphis," Hoobler said.

Later, Carmack became a politician.

"Carmack was an avid Prohibitionist," Hoobler explained.

He was shot and killed by the son of one of his political rivals. Two decades later, he was honored with a statue.

"By 1927, the [Women's Christian Temperance Movement] was really ticked and they put up this monument to Carmack as their Prohibitionist martyr," said Hobbler

Even before being torn down Saturday, Hobbler says there was talk before the protest of moving or replacing the statue from such a prominent position on Capitol Hill.

"If anything happened to this, we looked at not replacing it because it’s perceived to be the most prominent place on the Hill," Hoobler explained.

However, that won't be an easy thing to get done. Under state law, the Tennessee Capitol Commission must vote to replace Carmack, then the Tennessee Historical Commission, another governing body for monuments across the state, would also have to approve. "

The commissions could also decide to leave the upper portion of the Motlow Tunnel empty without a statue, but that would also require the permission of both commissions.

The other option would be the groups decide to repair it. Until a decision is made, the statue, battered and broken, will sit in storage.