Descendant of Confederate officer Maury ‘glad’ statue was removed in Richmond

Workers secure the statue of Confederate Naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury to a truck on Monument Avenue, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Maury was better known for his work in oceanography and other sciences before the Civil War. His statue is the second removed since a new state law was enacted on July first. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

As the statue of Confederate naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury came down Thursday in Richmond, Virginia, one of his descendants heartily supported the removal.

“I was glad they took the statue down,” Matthew Deane Maury, of Bethesda, Maryland, told WTOP.

Deane Maury, 68, said Fontaine Maury is his great uncle, seven generations back.

He said his mother told him he was named after Fontaine Maury. Growing up, Deane Maury said he knew about his ancestor’s contributions to science, especially the contributions to modern oceanography, which earned the man the nickname “the Pathfinder of Seas.”

What Deane Maury didn’t realize until later in life was the role Fontaine Maury played in the Civil War, which included lobbying European countries to support the Confederacy.

“Confederates were treasonous and racists, and believed in a racist cause,” Deane Maury said.

For Deane Maury, he said though everyone in his family may not share his opinion, he believes the predominant view is in line with his. “The hard fact is he made the wrong moral choice in the most critical part of his life,” Deane Maury said of his ancestor.

Despite his family’s history, Deane Maury said he considered himself a Union sympathizer, and didn’t understand the “Lost Cause” interpretation.

He recalled an instance where he was invited to a Civil War re-enactment by a friend whose family planned to portray confederate soldiers. “My mom said, ‘You can go, but I am going to make your uniform,’ and she made me a Union uniform with blue pants and a yellow stripe,” Deane Maury said.

He added, “I showed up to go down to Manassas with this family. They nearly died.”

The Fontaine Maury statue removal in Richmond comes after Mayor Levar Stoney ordered all Confederate statues on city property be taken down. A Virginia law that went into effect Wednesday allows localities to take control of what happens to such monuments.

Deane Maury said he supports the removal of all Confederate statues not only in Richmond, but throughout the nation.

“Any public square in a place of honor is not a place for, in my opinion, any Confederates who tried to dissolve the union and preserve slavery,” Deane Maury said.

As for claims by some that removing Confederate statues is an attempt to erase history, Deane Maury had this response about his ancestor’s case: “His history is never going to be erased. You can go to the Smithsonian or any number of scientific journals — read all about him.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier versionof this story incorrectly spelled Deane Maury’s name.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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