Contractor who removed the Confederate statues said if he didn't step up, he worried no one would

"No one was willing to step up. I knew at that moment if I didn’t do it, they’d probably still be up today."
Contractor who removed Confederate monuments shares story for the first time
Posted at 11:26 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 11:26:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The contractor who removed Richmond’s Confederate monuments is sharing his experience just over two years since his company was contracted to remove the first Richmond Confederate monument.

Devon Henry of Henry Enterprises was tasked by the city in the summer of 2020 under then Governor Ralph Northam’s orders to remove the monuments.

He said accepting the job wasn’t easy he was being told he may not ever get business again and feared for the safety of his team. He said nobody would step up for the role.

“No one was willing to step up. I knew at that moment if I didn’t do it they’d probably still be up today,” he said.

His company ended up taking on the task to remove all the city's statues.

They first removed the Stonewall Jackson statue.

Henry said he would never forget that day. He drove over the Arthur Ashe bridge and thought about how he got to finally take the statue down

“The words I used were 'let's go make history. Let's go do something nobody else has been able to do in the former capitol of the Confederacy,'” he said to his team.

One by one, over the course of the next year and a half they removed them all.

His team faced more than just the grueling challenge of removal, according to Henry.

People called his office spewing hate, and he said someone tried to run them off the road carrying the 60,000 pounds of stone. They then waved their Confederate flag, according to Henry.

However, he said he found the hope people had for a new history outweighed the hate. For all the folks that spewed hate, Henry said there were hundreds behind him supporting and thanking him.

Henry is now finding a way to commemorate the history he helped to create. He worked with others to create NFT, or digital one-of-a-kind art, to represent the moment.

He also is now sharing pictures and pieces of the monument with the community. Something, he said he plans to take with him and travel the country to educate folks with.

He is doing all of it with the hopes to raise funds to put back into social causes impacting black and brown communities.

“We needed to find a way to turn the negative conversation into positive and do something that is going to impact the community,” he said.

Henry believes there is much work that needs to be done, which is why he is working to raise $13 million by selling the NFTs representing the historical significance of what he did by taking down the monuments. However, he takes pride in knowing the legacy he has so far left.

“If I take a moment to reflect it feels really good because I know my kids can say their grandad did something special,” he said.

As for what remains where the statues once stood, construction, fences and barricades surround the plots of land. CBS 6 asked Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney what’s next now that the city has control of the project.

He said they are waiting for the grass to settle and then they plan to remove the fence and engage the community on what they want to see. The mayor gave a rough timeline when pressed about when that may happen.

“The grass has its own way of growing on its own. But I think come late fall you may see some progress where we can remove that fence,” Stoney said.

Stoney said the city would like public input on what will go there, but did not specify in what format that would happen or when.