Statue of Josephus Daniels removed in downtown Raleigh, school renamed

Wake County School Board finally renames Daniels Magnet Middle School

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josephus Daniels, ambassador to Mexico, as they arrived at 4-H Club encampment in Washington on June 14, 1940. In background to the president’s right is Henry Wallace, secretary of agriculture. (AP Photo/George R. Skadding/Max Desfor)

RALEIGH — On Tuesday, the statue of Josephus Daniels, a former newspaper publisher and Secretary of the Navy, was removed from its location in downtown Raleigh. The statue was removed in the wake of protests that have followed the death of George Floyd, the black man who was killed by Minneapolis police while attempting to take him into custody. Raleigh officials say the statue will be placed in storage. Daniels was infamously known as a white supremacist.

Daniels’ statue, which stood 8-feet-tall on a 4-foot-tall base, had stood near the corner of West Hargett Street and South McDowell Street in Nash Square since 1985. Daniels died on Jan. 15, 1948.

Later in the day on Tuesday, Wake County Public Schools board members voted to rename Daniels Magnet Middle School to Oberlin Middle School, which honors a community founded by former slaves.  Several members of the community had pressed the board over the last two years to rename the school, including a recent attempt by former Wake School Board candidate, Democrat Shaun Pollenz.

Earlier in June, Pollenz sent a detailed letter to the board asking them to take up the matter of Daniels Middle. Wake Board member Christine Kusher’s response seemed to mock Pollenz’s plea by reminding him of how he stood by parents opposed to the district’s controversial MVP Math, which included one outspoken parent who was sued by the curriculum supplier.

“Thank you for your email, Shawn. I would encourage you to reflect on your active work to support parents who spoke against our collaborative Math curriculum. Best wishes,” said Kushner’s reply.

During the meeting, Wake school board members also mentioned Daniels and the role he played while publisher of The News & Observer that led to the overthrow of the duly elected Wilmington city government in 1898.

In addition to being a publisher, Daniels, a Democrat, served as U.S. Navy secretary, appointed during World War I by President Woodrow Wilson. He was later appointed Ambassador to Mexico (1933-1941) by close friend President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his Ambassadorship to Mexico ended, Daniels returned to editing and writing at The News and Observer.

While The News and Observer reported on the removal of Daniels’ statue, the paper chose to interview Frank Daniels III, a former executive editor of The News and Observer. The paper reported that Daniels “drove from his home in Nashville, Tenn.” to watch the statue be removed.

Left out of The News and Observer’s report is N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman, a registered Democrat.  Inman, who is running for the NC Supreme Court this November, is the daughter of author Lucy Daniels, the granddaughter of former White House Press Secretary Jonathan W. Daniels and is the great-granddaughter of Josephus Daniels.

North State Journal reached out to Inman for comment on the removal of her great-grandfather’s statue and the renaming of the middle school but did not receive a response.

Inman is not a native North Carolinian as she was born in Indianapolis, Indiana when her father worked at the Indianapolis Star. She did attend school in the Tarheel state, receiving her undergraduate degree in 1984 from North Carolina State University. She worked as a newspaper reporter before attending the University of North Carolina School of Law.

With her husband, Billy Warden, Inman has two children, one of whom, William Josephus Warden, bears the name of her great-grandfather.  William Warden made headlines in 2018 when he was arrested in early November and was charged with misdemeanor ethnic intimidation making threats at a synagogue in Cary.

Police in Cary reported that  Warden went to the synagogue, rang the bell, and when a female official from the synagogue answered the door, he made a “number of disparaging statements against the Jewish religion and people of the Jewish faith.”

The month prior, on Oct. 26, Warden had been arrested for building and then burning a cross in the middle of a Bond Park also located in Cary.  According to police, he was also suspected of distributing anti-Semitic fliers in a Cary subdivision.

Following the arrests, Inman and her husband released a statement apologizing to the Jewish Community.

“As Will’s parents, we could not be more saddened by the alleged conduct of our son on November 3rd. Our family is inclusive and respectful of all people,” the statement said. “Sadly, we, like many families, are dealing in this case with a mental illness, which we recognize and for which we have sought and continue to seek treatment.

The family’s attorney said William had been “exploited” by certain people but did not elaborate.

“Our observations and our communications with law enforcement lead us to believe that our son has been exploited by people whose agenda is completely opposed to the inclusive values we espouse and live,” the Warden’s attorney Elliot Adams said in a statement to The News and Observer.

Josephus Daniels and Wilmington

Leading up to the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, also known as the Wilmington Race Riot, Daniels had used The News and Observer to publish inflammatory and racist articles and cartoons in what would later be called the “white supremacy” campaign of 1898. He had also

On Thursday, November 10, 1898, the violence in Wilmington started before 9 a.m., when a heavily armed group of around 500 white men set fire to the offices of “The Daily Record.” The group’s numbers swelled to an estimated 2,000 and they began gutting black neighborhoods, homes and businesses. By the end of the day, it was estimated that as many as 250 to 300 people had been killed.

The Wilmington insurrection of 1898 has also been called the Wilmington coup of 1898 and with good reason. As rioting progressed through Wilmington, former Congressman Alfred Waddell led part of the group to see the city’s Republican Mayor, Silas P. Wright, forcing him and several other city officials to resign at gunpoint. By late afternoon, Waddell and his group had executed a coup d’état with Waddell as the new mayor, who in turn appointed all Democrats as alderman.

About A.P. Dillon 279 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_