RICHMOND, Va. — John Hill, a descendant of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, said he drove overnight from Ohio to Virginia to witness the removal of the last standing Confederate monument in Richmond.
Hill watched as crews took down the 130-year-old statue at the intersection of Hermitage Road and West Laburnum Avenue on the city’s Northside.
“His remains are underneath that monument. I just want to make sure they’re removed respectfully,” Hill said about why he made the eight-hour drive. “It’s a tough day. Trying to be calm about everything and hope everything goes well.”
Hill fought in Richmond Circuit Court to stop the statue's removal.
“I went [to court on] Sept. 29 to testify and prove my lineage to Hill and showed them my family tree information,” he said. “They denied [my request] and said it belongs to the city even though it was paid for by the Hill Monument Association and A.P. Hill’s family and friends.”
While Hill's remains will be sent to Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper, the family argued that the statue portion of the monument was a grave marker, thus making it personal property.
However, in October, a Richmond Circuit Court Judge ruled that the city could call the shots where the statue would go. City leaders asked for it to be placed in the Black History Museum alongside the other recently removed Confederate monuments.
A judge denied the Hill family's emergency injunction. The statue will remain in city storage as the appeals process continues.
“A.P. Hill didn’t own any slaves at all," Hill, who said his lineage could also be traced back to Robert E Lee, said. "He was fighting an invader, 75,000 troops were raised in 1861 to invade his homeland, and he fought back just like any man would."
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney addressed reporters as the Hill statue laid down nearby on a flatbed truck.
"This wasn't just two years of work. This was 100 years of difficult work," Stoney said. "I’m proud we have arrived at this moment in our history. Now we can turn the page and focus on lifting more people up, becoming more inclusive, and creating a place where everyone belongs."
Amanda Lynch held her Starbucks coffee as she waited in the chilly weather for the removal process to begin. She lives nearby and wishes her grandparents were here to watch the moment.
"I think with this being the last one to come down, it’s become a full circle moment for me," Lynch said.
Her daughter, Ava Holloway, was one of the ballerinas featured in a viral photo on the steps of the Lee statue on Monument Avenue.
"For us to have been so involved in this process of Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, but then also the removal of the Lee monument to this being the final chapter of Richmond’s history coming to a close. It's just nice," Lynch said.
Richmond's Confederate statues were first torn down by protesters and then removed by contracted crews after Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.