Confederate monument remains the center of attention

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/10/19

PITTSBORO — For the third consecutive meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, it was all most people wanted to talk about.

The “Our Confederate Heroes” monument in front of the …

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Confederate monument remains the center of attention

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PITTSBORO — For the third consecutive meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, it was all most people wanted to talk about.

The “Our Confederate Heroes” monument in front of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse, where the commissioners meet, was the subject Monday of a short presentation and 45 public comments, with a smattering of opinions on keeping it in place, removing it and returning it to its owners and alternate options.

By final count, 27 individuals spoke in favor of removing the monument, 16 supported keeping it in place and four proposed different solutions. No final decision on the monument was made. County attorney Richard “Jep” Rose told the News + Record last month, and commissioners confirmed after Monday’s meeting, that potential legal options will be discussed in a closed session on May 20.

Several of those speaking in opposition read a uniform statement supporting removal of the monument as soon as possible. Multiple speakers claimed the monument was a testament to white supremacy and part of the South’s effort to paint a different history of the Confederacy.

“The Lost Cause was a romantic myth about the South,” said Chatham resident Vickie Atkinson. “The South was on the wrong side of history. We were defending slavery. The South lost the war. I’m glad we did. We were wrong.”

Roslayn Darling said she was in favor of removing the statue, but spoke more broadly, encouraging those in attendance to find common ground on issues.

“I think we need to do a much better job in this county of focusing on the things we can agree on. I think all of us love this county, care about this county,” she said. “Those of us who came from other places are here because we want to be here. We chose to live in Chatham County. No one that I know came to tear this county apart.”

Of those who spoke in favor of keeping the monument in place, four said they lived in other counties but came to speak on the issue; two of them said they either had land or a business in Chatham. Wake County resident Randy Wynn said slavery would have ended on its own without the war.

“It ended for the wrong reason,” he said. “It ended because we lost the war.”

Multiple speakers who wanted the statue to remain cited a poll from The Chatham Journal. More than 75 percent of respondents to the unscientific survey, which counted 5,514 votes, said the monument should remain. There was no stipulation in the poll that only Chatham residents should vote.

Pam and Brantley Webster spoke prior to the public comments and presented a petition with 3,012 signatures to the board in support of keeping the monument in place.

Pam Webster said the monument “does not stand as a memorial of hate,” but instead is a “memorial to those who fought and died” in the Civil War for the South. Brantley Webster said those who are against the statue “spin half-truths and undocumented lies.”

“They seek to divide the people of this county,” he said. “Many would portray us as racist. I am not and no one I associate with is racist, at least that I know of.”

The public comments were preceded by a presentation on Chatham history by Gene Brooks, a local historian. He spoke about the county’s origins and the culture of the area throughout its early years and the Civil War. Brooks did not specify whether he preferred keeping the monument or removing it, but did encourage the commissioners to “learn from” history.

“Is it any wonder that those that survived wanted to recognize the courage and devotion of those that were lost after the war?” he said. “We don’t need to erase history in America. We need to learn from it. I don’t care what it is. I gave so much of my life to that cause.”

The commissioners will next meet on May 20, their regular meeting time, to hold a public hearing on the just-released budget for fiscal year 2019-2020.

Reach Zachary Horner at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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