BAKER COUNTY, Fla. — A new legal push could change the names of five Florida counties.
The lawsuit, filed by Earl Johnson Jr., was filed over a year ago challenging the use of tax dollars to fund Confederate monuments in Jacksonville, but it was recently amended to encompass street names and counties named after Confederate figures.
A mural in the Baker County Courthouse depicting Klansmen on horseback, Duval County’s Confederate statues and nine roads in Northeast Florida are just some of the 47 monuments to the Confederacy Johnson is hoping to keep his tax dollars from funding.
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Johnson’s father represented Martin Luther King Jr. and championed a lawsuit that led to desegregation in Florida.
That legal challenge was premised on the public accommodation protections in the Civil Rights Act, the same statute Johnson’s current lawsuit invokes.
“When a courthouse or a county or a city has a tribute to the Confederacy, it’s ultimately a governmental endorsement of white supremacy,” said Johnson.
Among the county names cited in the suit are northeast Florida’s Baker and Bradford counties.
Bradford is named after the first Confederate officer from Florida killed in the Civil War, and Baker is named after a Confederate senator now buried in Jacksonville.
“They took up arms and treason against America and did so in an effort to maintain the enslavement of my ancestors,” said Johnson.
Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci (R-Group 4 at-large) has fought to remove Jacksonville’s Confederate statues, which he sees as the most egregious example of Confederate remnants in Duval County.
“The monuments are a different level to me than street signs,” said Carlucci.
But Carlucci believes Johnson’s lawsuit attempts to change too much in one go, arguing statues erected in public places to honor the Confederacy should take priority.
“You know, you can’t swallow the whole apple at one time, but I’m trying to take a bite of the apple that I think matters the most,” said Carlucci.
The city of Jacksonville declined to weigh in on this story, noting it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
We also reached out to the governor’s office, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but did not hear back.