Jones' descendants upset about removal of statue's base

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The descendants of one of Gulfport's founding fathers say they're worried about what will become of a statue honoring their ancestor. That's because Wednesday morning, Harrison County crews removed the base section of the Captain Joseph T. Jones statue from its spot on the beachfront.

Harrison County officials say it was done after a request from Gulfport. Relatives say they suspect the city wants the statue out of the way to pursue other plans for the land.

It was lifted, loaded and hauled away before Margaret Moran, Grace Lebo, and Rosemary Finley knew what had become of the base for the statue of Captain Joseph T. Jones. Gulfport city officials say it will be refurbished, which the three sisters say is fine for now.

Margaret Moran said, "No question. Put it back and put it back just like it was."

The sisters worry that may not happen since they say Gulfport officials have told them the city plans to relocate the statue from in front of the damaged library to Jones Park, which is on the other side of Highway 90.

"They've been wanting to move the statue for ages," said Moran. "I don't know why. I don't know what's behind it, but they've been trying to move this statue for a long time. "

The beachfront property was deeded to the city by Captain Jones' family in 1928. The sisters say in his daughter, Grace Jones Stewart, paid to have his statue erected in the 1940s where it would overlook the port he built. The family also says relocating the monument from high ground would make it more vulnerable to hurricanes.

"If he'd been down there in Katrina, we'd probably not have the statue now at all, so we'd much prefer that it be up here," said Lebo.

Before the library was built on the property, the Chautauqua House was there where people would come for proms, meetings and other special events. The sisters say their fear is that the city will use this property for something other than for the community, which they say is not what their cousin Grace Jones Stewart intended.

Rosemary Finley said, "We have no idea what they intend to do with the property. It's sad because we've lost so much and to lose another building and to lose a founding father standing here."

Hurricane Katrina knocked the statue of Captain Joseph Jones of its base. Gulfport city officials say they removed the base so that it and the statue could be refurbished together. Officials say no decision has been made on where the statue will be be remounted.