DOBSON — Last month a local man criticized the war memorials around the historic courthouse here. This month, a group of people stood up to defend the displays.
Dobson resident Ken Badgett suggested to the Surry County Board of Commissioners that part of the renovation plans of the century-old structure be a review of the landscape “to deal with current issues as well as the potential for the placement of new monuments and markers.”
He objected to a World War I memorial where soldiers’ names were separated by racial category. He believed a quote from Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, should be stricken from a memorial to soldiers who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and more recent conflicts.
“The individuals on this memorial died in service to the United States of America, not to the ill-fated slaveholding republic,” said Badgett. “This quotation should be removed.”
At Monday’s meeting of the county board, several people showed up to offer their opposite viewpoint.
Rich Webster said he is commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ General JEB Stuart Camp 1598.
After the meeting the commander stated that he was joined by Jackie Holden Webster, Stephanie Ann Webster, Levi Webster, Chelsea Nicole Taylor, Angie Alls and her two boys, Danny Martin, Ed Reynolds, Ricky Sechrist and his wife, Harold Mooney, Robert Durwood Smith, and Eldridge Easter and his wife.
Rich Webster said the people were there to lend their support to the existing monuments.
“Those who served from this area in all wars are not here to speak for themselves,” he said. “For history’s sake, the monuments are there to recognize what they fought for many years ago.”
“Not everyone is happy with everything in the past,” he admitted. He might not be happy with everything that his own family has done in the past, but he will always stand up for his family.
“The people recognized on those monuments were once part of all of us.”
Angie Alls pointed out to the board that more than 1,000 men from this county fought in the Civil War, and 259 of them died.
The monuments were paid for by the descendants of the grieving families, she said. “Recognizing our families and heritage is not racist.”
Chairman Eddie Harris said he doesn’t support any changes to the monuments.
“I would be vehemently opposed and I have opposed it,” he said. When a Confederate monument was toppled in Durham last year, a reporter from ABC News 11 called him to ask about the local monuments. He said he told the station that this was an attempt to honor veterans and that he is proud of all its veterans.
“This county suffered terribly during that war 150 years ago,” Harris said. “I think these citizens deserve those.”
“History is what it is,” said Commissioner Buck Golding. “Without history, it’s hard to know where we are going. … If something is really bad, like the second world war, then we shouldn’t repeat it.”
Commissioner Van Tucker likened history to a certain Clint Eastwood movie.
”Some of it was good, some of it was bad, some of it was ugly,” he said. “Taking down monuments is a little over the top on trying to repaint history. We can’t go to the register of deeds office and try to take out every offensive word that might have been used in reference to a person of color.”
What is really being lost here is an opportunity to provide a teaching moment to children, believed Commissioner Larry Phillips. Rather than trying to sweep history under the rug, bring a busload of kids out to the courthouse and talk about what life was like in those eras. Tell the kids why they don’t want to repeat the bad parts. Hopefully they can learn from historic mistakes and not repeat them.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.