Jerome Moroux was born and raised in Lafayette, but for most of his life, the white stone statue of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton at the Downtown corner of Jefferson and Lee escaped his notice. “It was invisible to me,” he says.
He’d grown up in a family of lawyers, married a lawyer, and finally, after years teaching English at Episcopal School of Acadiana, Jerome decided to attend law school himself. By the time he’d passed the bar, the Mouton statue and the local movement to remove it had caught his attention. He joined with Move the Mindset as its lead attorney and worked pro bono to untangle many decades’ worth of legal knots around the statue.
At first, Lafayette leaders resisted. “They said it’s unfeasible, from a political perspective. And that it was fraught with legal problems,” he says.
So Jerome dug into the process of solving them. He pored over the archives at UL, unearthing memos and meeting minutes from the 1980s that revealed under-the-table agreements between the local chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy, who originally donated the statue to the city, and Lafayette city government. He brought them to the Guillory administration. Meanwhile, the rest of the organizers with Move the Mindset worked to raise public awareness on the issue. Eventually, the tide began to turn.
“The real hero of this is Fred [Prejean],” Jerome says, referring to the president of Move the Mindset. “This man devoted himself to it, went to council meetings — which are sometimes interminable — waiting his place on the docket to push things forward.”
At last, in July, Move the Mindset prevailed. The statue was slated for removal.
“Racial injustice is the ugliest, most disgusting thing,” says Jerome. “And it’s not like taking the statute down solves it. But it does say that we as a town are not going to have this as something that we endorse.”
Ultimately, the statue was lifted into the air on a sweltering Saturday morning in July, removed from where it had stood for nearly a century.
“The most remarkable thing to me was how easy it came up,” he says. “For years, there was an idea that maybe there was a steel rod through it. No one actually knew. The people who knew anything about its construction had long gone. So there was some concern that it was unfeasible to move it, because there’s a rod that runs from the base to the stem.”
“But then? It came up. So easy.” Jerome smiles. “Beautiful.”