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Public hearing slated on future of Confederate statue in Boydton

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / August 12, 2020
The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors will hear from the public before members decide the fate of the Confederate soldier statue that stands at the courthouse square in Boydton.

A public hearing will take place Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. in the gymnasium at Park View High School in South Hill.

Supervisors agreed to call the public hearing after a small crowd gathered outside the board hearing room at the Goode Building on Monday, waving signs calling for the preservation of the monument.

During the September meeting of the Board, Supervisor Glanzy Spain asked fellow members to consider removing the statue that has stood on the Courthouse lawn for more than 110 years.

Five local residents asked to address the board Monday, even after being told there would be a public hearing held later on the topic. Supervisors heard arguments both pro and con for keeping the statue.

None of the speakers called for the monument to be destroyed, though two felt that the Courthouse Square is not the best site for a tribute to Confederate soldiers.

Lewis West, a veteran who served overseas during the Cold War and the Vietnam War, commented on the depiction of the soldier that stands atop the monument in Boydton. West said the monument should be viewed as a tribute to a soldier who was given a mission — to fight for his home.

“Where does it stop?” West asked, predicting that the next monuments to go could be the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. or the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

Jimmy Cox, local manager of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp, appealed to the board’s sense of honor, patriotism, and decency in asking the supervisors to leave the statue standing. He described it as a “memorial to a past generation of men who fought, bled and died at the request of Virginia and Mecklenburg County governments.”

He told supervisors that since a previous board helped pay for and supported the placement of the monument at the courthouse square, moving it would be tantamount to a breach of trust with citizens, battle-worn soldiers and others.

Offering a counterpoint, Charles Farrar said the “monument is inappropriately located” in front of the courthouse as “it does not convey equality for all because of what the Confederacy was fought over.” The current location, he said, diminishes the expectation that the courthouse will serve as a place “where equal justice is meted out to all of our citizens.”

Farrar was joined by Mike Shepherd, who said that while he was “fine with the monument right where it is,” he also realizes that “a number of other people don’t find it that acceptable.”

Shepherd suggested that the Confederate statue should be replaced with memorials to either or both of Mecklenburg County’s Medal of Honor recipients — Henry Johnson, a Buffalo Soldier who received the medal for valor in the Indian Wars, or Earle Davis Gregory, who earned the honor for heroism in World War I.

Mecklenburg County Republican Party Chair Wally Hudson implored supervisors not to bow to pressure from outside agitators. Instead, he said the question of whether to remove the monument should be submitted to voters of Mecklenburg County via a ballot referendum.

The statue in Boydton was erected in two parts. The granite base with its inscriptions, “To the confederate soldiers of Mecklenburg” and “From Bethel to Appomattox: 1861-1865,” was built in 1899 with funds raised by members of the L.A. Armistead Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 26. The nine-foot tall bronze statue was added in 1909.

Local folklore has John Bowen, of the Third Virginia Cavalry, serving as the model for the statue, though the artist would have taken some license since Bowen lost an arm at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in May 1864.

This is not the first time that talk has stirred of taking the monument down. In August 2017, a hactivist collective known as “Anonymous” threatened to raze the statue and ten other Confederate monuments like it in the U.S. that they said represented “ideologies of hate.”

The Boydton attack was planned to coincide with a barbecue festival that was taking place in the town on Friday, Aug. 18. Nothing came off the online threat.

Members of the local Sons of the Confederacy stood guard around the statue for several hours that day. None of the statues targeted by Anonymous were toppled, though one in Atlanta was vandalized with spray paint in response to white supremacist violence that took place in Charlottesville days before.

For the most part, supervisors gave no indication of their thoughts regarding the statue, though Claudia Lundy called the public hearing “the right steps about the monument so that the citizens can have their input.” Charles Jones added his support for the public hearing, calling it “a great idea” and praising the board for including the public in the decision-making process related to the future of the Confederate monument.



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Comments

You don't think the local Native Americans might have a problem with a statue as tribute of someone who fought in the "indian wars?"

Comments

The statue is to honor soldiers who fought for their home state, so it should be left alone. I'd be fine with adding two memorials for the Medal of Honor-recipients from Mecklenburg County, but what if someone is "offended" later because Henry Johnson's MoH was for fighting Indians; could it eventually be taken down? Where does all of this stop?


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