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Confederate statue to move

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / November 04, 2020
Mecklenburg County’s monument to the Confederate soldier at the courthouse square in Boydton will be moved from the spot it has occupied for more than 112 years.

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 Monday to remove the statue, which was erected by the L.A. Armistead Camp, Confederate Veterans, and dedicated on Aug. 7, 1908. Putting the vote in perspective, Board Chair Glenn Barbour said that if an organization sought today to erect a Confederate monument, “I would venture to guess that it would get rejected on a 9-0 vote since the courthouse is not the appropriate site.”

Supervisors David Brankley, Jim Jennings and Sterling Wilkerson voted against moving the monument while Claudia Lundy, Tom Tanner, Charles Jones, Andy Hargrove, Vice Chair Glanzy Spain and Barbour favored relocating the 19-foot tall granite and bronze monolith to a more suitable location.

In July, Spain asked the board to look into whether the statue should be removed from the courthouse grounds. His request came as protests and riots following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis were happening across the nation, and as discussions about systemic racism and racist symbols were taking center stage.

Jones said after the vote that he did not want the statue destroyed and was actively working on finding a more suitable location for the monument, which is dedicated to the Confederate soldiers of Mecklenburg County. He also asked that it not be removed until a new home has been found.

Under Virginia law, the county must now wait 30 days, during which time any museum, historical society, government, or military battlefield organization can ask to take possession of the statue. The final decision as to when or where the monument will move rests with the county.

In August, Jimmy Cox, representing the local Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp, told board members that the monument belonged to the citizens of Mecklenburg County, who commissioned the statue and paid to have it constructed. Moving it would be tantamount to a breach of trust with citizens, battle-worn soldiers and others, argued Cox.

Brankley had asked the board to put the question of whether to remove the statue to the voters in a referendum at the November election. That motion garnered only three votes — Brankley, Wilkerson and Jennings. Brankley said he made the motion out of respect to the members of the public who came to a September public hearing and shared their views on the fate of the monument.

He said he believed taking down the statue was just one more erosion of people’s rights.

Wilkerson said he was not necessarily advocating for the statue, but none of his constituents who weighed in on the issued favored removing or relocating it. “The vast majority wanted it left,” he said.

It was Jennings who made the most impassioned speech in favor of keeping the monument at the board’s monthly meeting on Monday.

Jennings said his view was summed up by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a recent interview: “Don’t sanitize history by taking down monuments.” He said he believed the decision to remove the Confederate statue was a vote “based on emotion rather than logic,” and that the movement that forced the issue was “started by a flash point that should not have happened.

“I don’t know that I care about granite and metal, but a movement based on anarchy does mean something to me and anyone with reasoning power can see that is what is happening,” he said. Jennings blamed “the mainstream media” for creating what he said is a shame culture.

Jennings said instead of spending money to remove the statue, the better course would be for the county to fund a college scholarship for a minority student who would not otherwise have the chance at pursuing a post-high school education.

Spain, who’d initially asked the Board to consider relocating the statue, shared his pleasure that the board members could “sit together in brotherhood to talk rather than react. Sometimes we overreact, but we’re blessed by how this board works together.”

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