All Confederate markers gone from Interstate 10, New Mexico says

The New Mexico welcome center in Lordsburg once held a marker dubbing Interstate 10 the Jefferson Davis Highway. The state Department of Transportation says all such markers have been removed. Alyson Hurt via Flickr

Officials of the state Department of Transportation now believe they have removed the last remaining memorials to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Interstate 10 rest areas in New Mexico.

The New Mexican reported earlier this summer that the state quietly took down several markers from the mid-20th century that named a stretch of the highway through Southern New Mexico for the Virginia-born rebel leader.

But readers noted that Jefferson Davis Highway markers remained in place at rest areas in Gage and Anthony.

The state confirmed last week it had removed those markers, too.

“We believe that they have all been removed, but we encourage anyone with knowledge of any others to let us know and we will have them removed immediately,” said department spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell.

The move comes as debate continues around the country over removing the names of Confederate leaders from public roads and buildings as well as taking down monuments to leaders of the South’s revolt.

Opposition to plans for removing a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., last year, for example, spurred a violent rally of white supremacists that left one anti-racist demonstrator dead.

Davis’ name has become part of the landscape across the South and, for a time, even in New Mexico. But New Mexico has tended to celebrate the Union’s leaders.

New Mexico played a pivotal role in the Union cause out West. Soldiers from the young territory joined with Colorado volunteers to send invading Texans into retreat at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

New Mexico has counties named for Abraham Lincoln, Schuyler Colfax, Ulysses Grant, José Francisco Chaves and Joseph Calloway Lea.

During the last century, however, the United Daughters of the Confederacy sought to rename a stretch of highway from Virginia to California after Davis.

In turn, New Mexico installed stone markers to the Jefferson Davis Highway along Interstate 10.

The markers went mostly forgotten, standing as curiosities under the desert sun far from where Davis ever traveled.

The Department of Transportation said the Jefferson Davis Highway designation was never official. In fact, the same stretches of interstate are known as the Purple Heart Memorial Highway.

Critics have argued such memorials are part of an effort to recast the story of the Civil War and downplay the role of Confederate leaders in maintaining the institution of slavery.

Over the last couple of years, New Mexico’s government has quietly removed the markers with apparently little interest or controversy.

Cantrell said the department is in possession of the markers.

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