Doug Richards, 11 Alive (Atlanta), October 22, 2013
Gov. Nathan Deal quietly signed an order this month to remove the controversial statue of Tom Watson from the prominent west side entrance of the state capitol building. But not because of the controversy.
Watson was a late-19th century and early-20th century state lawmaker and member of Congress who, critics say, represented the worst of Georgia politics in the post-Reconstruction era.
Gov. Deal ordered the relocation not because of the decades-long controversy over the statue’s prominent place, but because the state is planning “big renovations on the steps on that side” of the Capitol, said Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson.
The Governor’s order will relocate the statue to Park Plaza, which is across the street from the Capitol. The State says moving the statue back to the Capitol after the renovations is not possible because it would be too expensive.
“Tom Watson was a first-class hater and it wasn’t just Jewish people, he hated Catholics and Black people too,” said Anti-Defamation League southeastern director Bill Nigut, in a 2010 story on 11 Alive News.
Watson was a prominent voice in the buildup to the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman convicted of murdering of Mary Phagan. “His anti-Semitism and racism was particularly vile,” said Sen. Vincent Fort Monday. Fort says Watson whipped up racist sentiment that led to a riot in Atlanta in 1906.