GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The fate of the historic library building in downtown Gulfport is a passionate, ongoing debate. But there's a related issue that's also quite contentious.
The controversy over the library is the main issue concerning the citizens group, "We the People." But along with saving the historic building, the fate and future of the Captain Jones monument which stood in front of the library has also ignited an emotional debate.
"The monument to Captain Jones, which was dedicated in 1942, must be returned to its original site," said Elizabeth Bitner during Thursday's library meeting that's part of the federal Section 106 review.
The latest meeting about the future of the storm-damaged library also addressed the Jones statue and granite pedestal.
"This is what I saw and I still say I'm the first vehicle down Highway 90 after the storm because there was no tire tracks in the mud. And I made those tracks," said Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, as he described how he found the Jones monument right after Hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Warr presented a picture which shows the Captain Jones statue "flat on his back." He says good Samaritans helped relocate the fallen statue to Grass Lawn, where it stood for many months post-Katrina.
Last October's removal of the granite base, done by county crews at the city's request, is even more contentious.
"But it does not merit chipping it all to pieces to move it somewhere else. This was right after the storm. This was a week or so later and it stood like this," said Rosemary Finley, a descendent of the Jones family and a member of "We the People."
"Maliciously and savagely removed the granite pedestal of the monument honoring Captain Jones in a devious attempt to silence the voice of the people," said Mary Ann Barkley of "We the People."
The mayor rejected that speculation, saying the monument was moved to be "out of harms way" in case demolition on the library began.
"The site where it's at is the perfect place for it. If there's a better one, we'll discuss that. But there's never been any intention to do any violence to the reputation of Captain Jones. Only respect. And to that statue and the monument it stands on," said Mayor Warr.
For now, the statute and monument are safely and securely stored at an undisclosed location.
"Harrison County will hire an expert to repair and replace the Jones monument to its original site," said Board of Supervisors President Marlin Ladner.