Statue of John C. Calhoun Comes Down in Charleston

Jun 24, 2020

John C. Calhoun statue is lifted after crews work for 17 hours to remove it from pedestal
Credit Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

A statue of John C. Calhoun has stood atop a perch of more than one hundred feet over Marion Square for 124 years and it was no easy task taking the likeness down.

Calhoun was a former State Senator and Vice President of the United States.  But he was also well known as an advocate of racist policies and slavery. 

His stature in one of the city's most prominent parks has been debated for years. 

There were calls for the figure's removal in 2015 following the murders of nine black parishioners at the hands of a racist gunman at Mother Emanuel AME Church just down the street.  Those calls recently grew louder with the nationwide protests following the videotaped death of a black Minneapolis man restrained by a white police officer.

Last week, on the five-year anniversary of the Charleston church massacre, the city's mayor announced a proposal calling for the statue's removal.  Council members passed it unanimously Tuesday night and within hours work was underway.

Crews lit up the park at midnight as they used cranes to try to detach the figure.  A crowd of a couple hundred people gathered along with the media excitedly chanting, "take it down".

As the night wore on, people dispersed, and the work grew increasingly intense.  City officials say the statue was fixed with a bronze mounting bracket, filled with an epoxy and concrete mix.  Workers had to use a diamond tip blade to cut it loose.

John C. Calhoun statue is set down before a cheering crowd
Credit Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

As the sun rose, a new crowd emerged but the wait was still long.  17 hours later, the statue was lifted as people cheered and sang, "Hey, hey, goodbye." 

The likeness of John C. Calhoun was set down beside them and they could finally see the face that peered down for so long.

Mayor John Tecklenburg says he and the city council will decide where the statue will be moved and preserved at a later time.