State Representative Geraldine F. Thompson credits many groups throughout Florida for sustained efforts to place a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. She emphasized that the initiative to remove the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith from Statuary Hall and replace it with one of Dr. Bethune has been a marathon and not a sprint.
As a former Senator, Representative Thompson vigorously supported a bill introduced in 2016 by former Senator John Legg to remove General Edmund Kirby Smith from Statuary Hall. Though she left the Senate in 2016, Thompson continued her efforts to have Florida represented in Statuary Hall by Mary McLeod Bethune after the outstanding educator and civic leader was chosen by a group called the Great Floridians as one of three possible replacements. The Great Floridians Committee also identified the founders of Publix Supermarkets and Walt Disney World as possible replacements for the Confederate General.
As keynote speaker for the 2017 Palm Beach County Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast, Geraldine F. Thompson informed nearly 500 people of her efforts on behalf of the Bethune statue and gained the support of those in attendance. In April of 2017, though not in office, Thompson arrived in Tallahassee with roughly 200 women who participated in a press conference in front of the Old Capital to support a bill introduced by Senator Perry Thurston to place Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in Statuary Hall. Later in November of 2017, as a private citizen, Thompson traveled to Tallahassee and urged a Senate committee, including many of her former colleagues, to support SB 472, which passed the Senate with only one “no” vote. The companion bill in the Florida House of Representatives also passed. Former Governor Rick Scott, however, failed to sign the paperwork needed to inform Congress of the requested change.
Representative Geraldine F. Thompson was pleased that Governor Ron DeSantis signed forms on July 10, the birthday of Dr. Bethune, to make the placement of Dr. Bethune as Florida’s Great Floridian in Statuary Hall official.
“Florida is the only state in the nation that has chosen to be represented in Statuary Hall by an African American female” Rep. Thompson said. “It is a sign of progress that is sorely needed in today’s social climate.”
Representative Thompson represents District 44 (Southwest Orange County) in the Florida House of Representatives. She previously served in the Florida House from 2006 until 2012 and in the Florida Senate from 2012 until 2016.