Former Memphis bishop removed from mural after child sexual abuse allegation

By Katherine Burgess
Commercial Appeal
September 9, 2019

The Upstanders mural, from Facing History and Ourselves, celebrates Memphians who fought for justice.
Photo by Chris Herrington

Carroll T. Dozier pauses at Immaculate Conception during a two-day visit to Memphis on Dec. 3, 1970.
Photo by Dave Darnell

Memphis’ first Catholic bishop no longer appears on a mural of Memphians who stood up for others.

Instead, Bishop Carroll T. Dozier has been painted over, replaced by Jose Guerrero, a founder of Latino Memphis.

Facing History and Ourselves made the change Saturday after the publication of a Commercial Appeal article highlighting the fact that Dozier had appeared on a list of clergy “credibly accused” of the sexual abuse of a child.

“We wish to extend our sincerest wishes of comfort, healing and strength to the victims and families touched by the scourge of clergy sex abuse," Facing History and Ourselves said in a written statement.

The list including Dozier was made by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, where Dozier was assigned to three parishes before being appointed the first bishop of the Diocese of Memphis after it separated from the Diocese of Nashville. The allegation of abuse was made after his death, but other details were not given.

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis is currently at work on its own list of credibly accused clergy and has said it will consider Dozier’s inclusion on the Richmond list.

The mural, announced in 2016 and intended to honor people who helped others, is on a wall across from the National Civil Rights Museum.

“When we conceived of creating a mural on the outside of our building, our aim was to celebrate Memphis’ leading historical figures who have made invaluable contributions to bringing our communities together and moving forward across racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious boundaries. It was in that spirit that we included Bishop Dozier,” Facing History and Ourselves said. “Given the allegations against Bishop Dozier, we have decided that in the best interests of our students, schools, and communities, to replace Bishop Dozier with another Memphis historical figure.”

The statement said members of the organization are “heartsick” at revelations about Dozier’s inclusion on the list of accused clergy, and that history must be examined critically.

Guerrero has been added because he “is remembered for his grassroots community involvement that helped launch this organization which is so vital to our community,” the statement read.

The mural features other Memphians who include African American journalist Ida B. Wells, civil rights activists Maxine and Vasco Smith and founder of multiple faith-based organizations the Rev. Frank McRae.



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