County attorney: Confederate monument options prepped for May 20 meeting

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/19/19

PITTSBORO — Chatham County Attorney Richard “Jep” Rose told the News + Record that he should have options for handling the Confederate monument in downtown Pittsboro ready for the …

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County attorney: Confederate monument options prepped for May 20 meeting

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Chatham County Attorney Richard “Jep” Rose told the News + Record that he should have options for handling the Confederate monument in downtown Pittsboro ready for the Chatham County Board of Commissioners’ May 20 meeting.

Rose said the options will “most likely” be given in closed session and doesn’t “anticipate...any action” at that time.

“We’re going to research the issue from a legal standpoint and detail those for the board,” he said. “We’re going to look at several (options). The statue could stay there, there’s certainly one.”

The commissioners instructed Rose at the April 15 meeting to research legal options for removing the monument from in front of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse in downtown Pittsboro.

Rose added that it was still “early in the game” to give any indication on what the options will be and that he hasn’t “landed” on whether a state statute prohibiting monuments like Pittsboro’s from being taken down applies to this situation.

When action is taken, “that will be public,” he said.

Public boards are allowed to hold closed sessions for attorney-client privilege, according to N.C. General Statute 143-318.11, for several reasons, including “consider(ing) and giv(ing) instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration or administrative procedure.”

As of now, the board would decide on the monument short-handed. Republican Walter Petty will be leaving the commissioners at the end of April, leaving just four to make the decision. Terry Schmidt, chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, told the News + Record that the party's executive board will meet later this month to vote on a recommendation.

Meanwhile, the leaders of “Chatham for All,” the group which brought the monument before the board and asked for its removal, are waiting on the board’s response. Howard Fifer, one of the individuals who spoke Monday on behalf of the group, told the News + Record Friday that the group “fervently hope(s) for...good leadership from the commissioners.”

“To me, good leadership is not waiting until tempers get even more heated, and then you make a decision based on somebody doing something stupid,” Fifer said. “To me, good leadership is making a decision and clearly stating the reasons for it, owning the decision, and I have confidence in the leaders that we elected.”

Fifer added that he “know(s)” the board “will make a decision in the best interest of the county.”

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Rev. Tony K. Thomas

I am writing this editorial comment on the article of what to do with the Confederate Monument at the Chatham, county court house traffic circle, in Pittsboro, NC. I am writing this to the brave citizens of Chatham County in which I am one of its sons. I am a 1977 graduate of Northwood, High School, where I received honors in academia and went on to become a civil engineer and professional land surveyor in the State of NC, of which I am the first of my race to achieve. Also, I am a Pastor of Foundation of Power Outreach Ministries, in Sanford, NC and have been in Christian ministry for over 37 years.

I was a passionate student of history in my early years of education. I can recall that my first encounter with coming to Pittsboro as a child. I would see that statue and thought that is was a monument depicting a pioneer for the start of our county. It wasn’t until 1976, my senior year in high school, when I realized the true history of that statue. Ironically, it didn’t come from my learning in the public school system but from the television productions of ROOTS. I then realized that the statue symbolize much more than a pioneer but pain and suffering of my fore-parents who were slaves in Chatham County.

My great grandfathers were slaves in Chatham County, NC and my great grandfathers were slave owners. So the blood of both sides runs in my veins. I believe that the brave citizenry of Chatham County is finally speaking. I can recall how I hated to have to make that drive around that circle to pay homage to a time that wasn’t for all but few that were entitled to own other as their livestock.

The very name of Chatham and Pittsboro is historically tied to the world wide ending of all slave trade and slavery. Lord Chatham’s Son, William Pitt, the younger, was prime minister of England when in 1807 the slave trade was abolish with the persistent lobbying of the abolitionist lead by William Wilberforce. In 1833, slavery was abolished in the UK; however, it would take a civil war to end slavery, in the USA.

Here we are, today, still addressing this dark period in the history of our great nation. Yes, I am all American and believe in the ideology and concepts that our constitution and bill of rights were written to stand for. I believe that the brave will have to stand and focus on the future and not the past. It is time to do the right thing and remove from public property, that statue that honors in some opinion fallen heroes, who fought for what where their rights at the time but not the rights for all.

The brave and free will have to stand up and lock arms and face the future for the next generation in our lovely county. We got to move out of race, religion, political affiliation and do the right thing by living up to the name of our county and city. Yes, when I watched the movie “Amazing Grace” and saw the bravery of William Pitt and William Wilberforce during their time. Well, Amazing Grace is with us again. This has been a long time coming. It didn’t come without lots of thought and years of praying. Because when I witnessed this event of the past, in that movie, I was sitting there thinking, these are the folk that my home county and town is named after.

Well, the world is watching to see what this generation will do. Will we make a brave decision and respect all, so that future generations will not be forced to pay homage to something that doesn’t represent them?

I am thankful for the peaceful, democratic and American voices that are being heard from across this county. Yes, everyone counts and matters. When it comes to doing what is right, history can never be re-written but the future can, by our decision which are made, today.

As the song Amazing Grace was written as an anthem for the ending of slavery, may Amazing Grace, move once again with our elected officials standing up and making the right decision for the removal of that confederate monument, in bravery for all.

Grace, Grace

God bless America,

Rev. Tony K. Thomas

Saturday, April 20
Nancy Jacobs

I applaud Rev. Thomas for his insightful and personal comments. I hope all will read his letter and take to heart the pain he and countless others have suffered all these years.

People ( white) can keep saying that the statue in front of the courthouse is not about race, nothing to do with racism, just about honoring their ancestors...But I hope they will try to envision what the statue represents to people of color. Imagine what that would feel coming to town to go to the courthouse and having to pass this symbol of oppression and terror.

To want to keep the statue is to say, " Your history doesn't matter, it's all about us."

Having learned the true history of this statue, and it's important to take in this new information and understand that it's purpose was not really to honor soldiers, it was to constantly remind people who (white people ) are in charge.

By removing the statue, we are not erasing history, it's a statue...a piece of metal on a pedestal, but it was put up by racists and KKK supporters to keep people down, not lift them up. Our America cannot be about this. It hurts me to see it. Even more after I found out about when and why it was erected.

We have a chance to look to the future, not cling to the past. Everyone must be honored. Let's act on it, and let this statue go.

| Tuesday, April 23