RICHMOND, Va. – A Southern heritage group that opposed a statue of President Abraham Lincoln at the American Civil War Center is offering to donate a $100,000 statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for the same site.
Brag Bowling, a spokesman for the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the gift is intended to celebrate Davis's birth 200 years ago this month in Kentucky.
It is not, he said, payback for the Lincoln statue unveiled in 2003.
"We're not offering the statue for controversy at all," Bowling said. "We've had enough of that with the other statue."
The offer has led to some delicate postwar diplomacy between the SCV and the Civil War Center, which strives to offer a neutral, historical perspective. Officials from each organization met Tuesday, but no immediate decision was expected.
The symbolism of statues is strong in a former capital of the Confederacy where monuments to Confederate heroes, including Davis, already line its most elegant boulevard.
Monument Avenue also includes memorials to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, both depicted on horseback. The addition of a statue dedicated to tennis great Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native, was opposed by purists who argued the boulevard was intended to honor Civil War greats.
Davis is interred at Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery, where thousands of Confederate soldiers are buried in a rolling green expanse overlooking downtown and the James River.
The majority-black city of 200,000 has taken a more reflective approach to the Civil War in recent decades, recognizing that the symbols and personalities of the period can be offensive to those who associate them with slavery.
The executive director of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP said Richmond does not need another monument to a Confederate figure.
"There's not a need for any more Confederate anything. We're maxed out," King Salim Khalfani said Tuesday. He called the Davis proposal "tit-for-tat" for the Lincoln monument.
"It's very offensive to me personally because if their cause was successful I would still be picking tobacco," he said.
Christy S. Coleman, president of the Civil War Center, said her organization is approaching the donation as it would any other gift: Officials will examine whether it fits with the center's collections strategy and consider its future upkeep, among other issues. The board of the nonprofit center will likely take up the matter in August.
"If someone offers us a sword, we may turn it down because we have too many swords," Coleman said. "Or we'll turn something down if it's not authentic, obviously."
Bowling described Tuesday's meeting as very cordial.
"I think they understand exactly what we want and why that is a very good place to have it," he said.
Bowling says the statue is right for Richmond historically and it's the most precise depiction of the angular statesman cast in stone or bronze.
Artist Gary Casteel also brought a little-known aspect of Davis's life to his work: Davis is depicted with his son, Joe, and a mixed-race child, Jim Limber, who was taken in by the Davis family.
"There are lots of places that this statue would be accepted in a second," Bowling said.