In recent weeks, counties and states all around the nation have been talking about, and some have removed statues honoring Confederate soldiers from public areas and colleges, and Grayson County was recently pulled into the discussion.
Sherman attorney David Kennedy Tuesday called for Grayson County commissioners to remove a statue dedicated to the Confederacy that sits on the north east corner of the Grayson County Courthouse lawn.
In the past few weeks, as protesters have gathered at the site to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis following an officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, there were murmurings among the crowd for the statue’s removal.
Kennedy has been making that call for years. He said he made the same request in a letter to the editor that ran in the Herald Democrat three years ago, but he got no response from local officials.
One of the many plaques on the monument says, "The Dixie Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy No. 35, organized (gives a date that is obscured partly) to aid in perpetuating the glorious memory of our martyred heroes."
The statute has been rededicated a number of times, and the last time appears to have been in 1996.
Kennedy referred to the monument as trash and said it had no place on the courthouse lawn.
"It has been said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," he said.
Kennedy told the commissioners Tuesday he knows the decision to remove the statue would be a politically unpopular one in Grayson County.
"I see and hear the the bigotry and racism that exists in our fair community, and this disease continues in part because we Christians fail in our duty to effectively fight against it. Now is your chance," Kennedy said.
He said, "When we pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag moments ago, I know you meant it. Our country’s victory in the civil war was a triumph of good over evil. Yet by your leaving that monument up, you honor evil. I firmly believe my Lord’s will was done when goodness won a victory over hate and bigotry. Do you think it is in His will that you memorialize the killing of American soldiers, who under God, were fighting for liberty and justice for all men?"
Kennedy urged the county leaders not to wait until their constituents told them to remove the statue and asked them to take the lead.
After the meeting, Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said that the fact that Kennedy made his statements during the public comments section of the meeting prevented him from addressing the issue after the meeting.
Also after the meeting, Commissioners Phyllis James said she is a huge history buff, and she believes the statue is a part of the history of this area.
"It’s part of the history of the United States of America and I think it pays honor to the young men who died fighting for a cause," she said.
Commissioner David Whitlock, who is the longest serving member on the court, said he is not in favor of taking the statue down because it represents the history of the area.
However, he did say the monument belongs to the people of Grayson County, and if it were to be removed, it should only be done at the will of the people as shown by a vote. He said if more people voted to take it down than voted to leave it, then the will of the people should be followed.
Whitlock said in all of the years that he has sat on the commissioner’s court, Kennedy is the only person who has ever said anything to him about wanting the statue removed.
Commissioner Jeff Whitmire replied no comment when asked about Kennedy’s statement.
After the meeting, Kennedy said he does not expect that the commissioners will take the statue down, and though he does not think it should be a political issue, they probably feel that it is one.
As to the issue of the statue standing for the history of the area, Kennedy said there is nothing that says the county has to honor that part of history.
"Its a dark, dark history in whose dark shadow a lot of people find power and the ability to express hate and bigotry and pain to others and that’s not a history that we should honor. It’s not something that we should promote and memorialize as if it is something that stands for this county," Kennedy said.
He said the problem with the monument is that it is not something that historically talks about the war.
"It talks about their feelings toward the war and it memorializes white pride as if that is something to which they’re entitled. It honors hatred and bigotry. It is not just about that they fought in a war. That whole movement in the south at that time ( when the monument was built) was to reestablish something that they had sworn by oath not to do, which was to bring about a division in the union of our states based on the color of a man’s skin," he said.
He noted that the memorial was the first of its kind on county grounds in the state.
"It is much more than a reflection or a reminder that we had a Civil War. We have plenty of ways that we can remind people of that so that we don’t ever go that route again," he said.
But, he said that by leaving monuments like the one on the corner of the Grayson County Courthouse, "we are always going to have that threat that people will be divided based on the color of their skin or based on their differences from one another and those differences are good things, they are not something that we should be using to divide the nation."
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