After reading Tom Joyce’s editorial column in The Mount Airy News on Saturday, August 19, local residents might come to believe that there is an imminent threat here in Surry County to the survival of the Confederacy itself.
RELAX, Tom, there is no local effort to remove the monument “In Memory of the Confederate Soldiers of Surry County” on the former courthouse square in Dobson, placed there in 2000 – just after the end of the Civil War in 1865. The marker’s profound quotation, timeless without citation, on the topic of “duty” by General Robert E. Lee greets every visitor to the office of the district attorney in the old county building.
No one is seeking to remove the quote attributed to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, from the memorial, on the south side of the square, to local soldiers who served the United States of America in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and more recent conflicts. This memorial was dedicated on July 4, 1985. Obviously, our local men died so that rebel leader Jefferson Davis could be remembered saying, “We have entered upon the career of independence and it will be inflexibly pursued.”
No one has attempted to touch the Great War (World War I) memorial on the square’s east side on which the names of local soldiers have been separated by race for almost eighty years. As Tom knows and assumes that we all know, there is a difference between the service of black and white Americans in forever Confederate counties like Surry. That difference is engraved in granite as a permanent reminder of the history of Surry County that no one will ever be able to erase. More than fifty years of scholars have come and gone at Surry Community College without any challenge to the local racial order as represented on the square, just a mile away. Generations of elected leaders – sheriffs, county commissioners, district attorneys, town officials, school board members, and dozens of others – have driven by the monuments without any criticism of their placement and content. Of course, elected leaders represent the worldview of their constituents; how else would they get votes?
Since, in Tom’s world and in our Confederate county, the dominant Confederate monuments on the old square represent the most important aspects of our county’s history, then the county’s greatest leaders must be “[t]he citizens of Surry, irrespective of [political] party, [who] met in the Court House in Dobson…” on December 24, 1860, where they resolved that “…We have recently witnessed the triumph of a fanatical, insane and sectional party of negro worshippers at the North, whose avowed policy is openly and entirely at issue with our inalienable and natural rights, guaranteed to us by the Constitution and sealed with the blood of our fathers, and which will shortly place the federal Government in the hands of those who openly declare the white and black race equal, which policy so revolting to common sense and decency, must result in our political destruction.” (See The Western Sentinel, a newspaper published in Winston-Salem, NC; Friday, January 11, 1861, page 3.) This “inflexibly pursued” sentiment remains alive and well today in Surry County. Local monuments that represent this racist sentiment stand as firmly as they ever have on the old courthouse square in Dobson, forever backed by the political resolve of our elected leaders. So, relax, Tom, RELAX!