Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statue Unveiled At Lake County Historic Courthouse


Nilda Comas, sculpture of Dr. Bethune statues

TAVARES – A diverse crowd of more than 150 Lake County residents and others attended the unveiling of the statue honoring Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at the Lake County Historic Courthouse at 317 Main Street, Tavares, Florida.

The two feet statue, sculptured by Nilda Comas, who was also present at the ceremony, is a replica of the original statue of Dr. Bethune, an American educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, civil right rights activist, and advisor to American presidents. The original statue also made by Comas stands at 11 feet and was placed at the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. in July 2022. The Bethune statue is the first African American woman housed at National Statuary Hall.

“Both statues were made from the same marble block from a quarry in Italy”, revealed Ms. Comas. “I’ve been preparing for this all my life, I feel I wanted to do legacies, so Dr. Bethune was just amazing, like I say that I was able to work on.”

Theo Bob, Lake County Historical Society member, said “This day was incredible for me.  It took me back to when I was a first grader at the segregated school.”

“If our younger generation could remember her last will of testament: I leave you hope, I leave you peace, I leave you all these things, and to love your fellow man, that’s awesome. If we can pass that down to them, we would’ve done a great service.”

The unveiling of the Dr. Bethune’s statue ceremony follows a 2018 controversy involving the Lake County Historical Society’s clandestine attempt to house a Confederate Statue of Edmund Kirby Smith in the same courthouse building that the Groveland Four was arrested for the alleged rape of Norma Padgett, a white woman, in 1949.

The four African American men were brutally beaten by the notorious Lake County Police Chief Willis McCall in the courthouse’s basement. The Groveland Four were pardoned by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020 and they were eventually exonerated by a Lake County judge.

The Lake County’s Historical Society’s desire to house the confederate statue at the courthouse was an affront to Lake County’s African American community.  They organized, protested and the county commission voted against the statue being housed at the Lake County Courthouse.