The statue of the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Melville W. Fuller that typically sits in front of the Kennebec County courthouse in Augusta has reportedly gone missing.
Fuller voted to uphold the “separate but equal” decision in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case, and the statue in Augusta has been met with scrutiny as communities discuss social justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
The statue, which has sat on a granite base in front of the courthouse since 2013, was simply nowhere in sight on Sunday morning, the Kennebec Journal reported.
In April of last year, the Kennebec County Commission reached an agreement with donor Robert Fuller Jr. to remove the statue of the former justice.
Robert Fuller was expected to take back the statue, as well as pay the costs of its removal within a year of the agreement.
The statue was commissioned in 2013 by Robert Fuller to mark the 125th anniversary of Melville W. Fuller’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
Melville W. Fuller was born in Augusta and served as a chief justice from 1888 until his death in 1910. He has been scrutinized for joining the majority in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, voting in favor of Justice Henry Billings’ decision that held “separate but equal” facilities and services didn’t violate the 13th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools.
It was not clear on Monday who arranged the removal of the statue, as Kennebec County administrator Scott Ferguson told the Kennebec Journal that county officials did not receive word from Robert Fuller that the statue would be moved.
Ferguson told the Augusta newspaper that there is security camera footage, which shows the statue being removed around 10 p.m. on Sunday night, but does not offer clues as to who directed the move.
The part-owner of the crane services company that removed the statue told officials that the company had been hired to take down the statue and place it in storage, but were “just hired to do some work,” and didn’t have additional information about who hired him or why the statue was moved when it was, according to the Kennebec Journal.
The granite base is expected to stay, as it significantly delayed traffic on State Street when it was installed.