Jaybird "Our Heroes" Monument

An obelisk erected on the Richmond City Hall grounds is dedicated to the memory of the fallen Jaybirds. Two petitions call for the memorial to be taken down because it honors the memories of racists and racism. The monument has been covered up for the past two weeks while civic leaders decide its fate.

A Richmond man and former mayoral candidate is working to claim ownership of the Jaybird monument, which has been covered up as a group of activists and historians look to decide its fate.

Tres Davis has issued letters to Fort Bend County Judge KP George, Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales, the city of Richmond and the Fort Bend History Association that he has claimed ownership of the Jaybird monument through common law in the state of Texas that deals with abandoned property. So now, Davis must wait for 30 days for the state to allow him to claim the property unless someone else intervenes with proof of ownership.

The property the monument was declared abandoned three years ago when the county left the property.

Davis, who ran for Richmond mayor in 2017 and for a city commission seat in 2018 and 2019, said he filed the paperwork to claim ownership of the monument to help the process of its fate.

“It’s hard to negotiate property if no one owns it,” he said.

Davis said that he wants to negotiate with the city and the county about the monument’s fate, but if he does claim ownership, he would move the monument and donate it to one of three museums – the National Museum of African American History in Washington, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Ala., or the Texas State Museum in Austin – since the Fort Bend County Museum “said that they didn’t want it.”

The monument is dedicated to three men who were killed at the height of the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, a political battle between “whites-only” Jaybirds and Woodpeckers, who supported African Americans running for political office in Fort Bend County after Reconstruction.

Last week, a partnership of the Fort Bend History Association and activists protesting the monument wrapped the monument with a gray tarp and placed a sign describing the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, along with a survey that asks what should be done about the monument.

But Claire Rodgers, executive director of the Fort Bend History Association, said that since the Jaybird Democratic Association disbanded in the 1960s, ownership of the monument has bounced between the county and the city, but now is abandoned.

Davis said he would work with everyone involved, but he has issues with the Richmond City Commission.

“I don’t trust them,” he said. “They say they will negotiate fairly, but it has never worked honestly.”

Terri Vela, Richmond city manager, said in a statement that they will continue to work with its county partners and community leaders and ask all residents to full out the survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/jaybirdmonument.

“What we know for sure is that this is a private monument about a county-wide issue on city property,” Vela said in the statement.

Davis hopes his bid continues to bring up conversation about the monument and its history but is wary about having someone else take ownership of it.

“Why would you assert ownership when a black man asserts ownership?” he asked. “Make sure to publish that.”

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