County attorney: ‘More likely than not’ UDC owns Confederate monument

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/18/19

Based on a review of legal documents and other evidence, the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy “more likely than not” own the “Our Confederate …

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County attorney: ‘More likely than not’ UDC owns Confederate monument

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Posted

Based on a review of legal documents and other evidence, the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy “more likely than not” own the “Our Confederate Heroes” monument in downtown Pittsboro, according to Chatham County attorneys.

The memo to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners — drafted by the county’s law firm Poyner Spruill and dated May 3 but made available August 19 for public consumption — outlines the potential steps the county could have taken and features language used by county commissioners to explain their vote to terminate the agreement between the county and the UDC for the monument’s placement.

The memo states that the original “order” issued by the 1907 board of commissioners states the monument “may remain in the care and keeping of the said Daughters,” referring to the Winnie Davis Chapter. It also says that Barbara Pugh, president of the chapter, cited a compiled history of the group that says the monument was “the gift of the Chapter to the county as a memorial to the Confederate Veterans, living and dead.” That history, Poyner Spruill writes, “is the only document we have seen which purports to support the claim that the Monument is owned by the County.”

Based on documents available, the statement concludes, “it appears to us more likely than not that the Monument is still owned by the Daughters.”

The question of ownership has been a significant one in the recent discussion. If the monument was owned by the county, the commissioners would have had their hands tied, as state law says an “object of remembrance” cannot be removed from public property unless it is owned by a private property and is “subject to a legal agreement governing its removal or relocation,” according to the attorney’s memo.

Poyner Spruill’s memo included 10 possible outcomes with the monument, and the county followed up on some of them. Among the recommendations:

  • “The County and the Daughters (as the owner of the Monument) may agree that the Monument be removed to a mutually agreeable location at the expense of the County.” That item states that it would be an “unlikely” scenario since the UDC has publicly stated they believe the monument is owned by the county.
  • “Terminate the 1908 Order.” The 1907 Order, according to the memo, “can be revoked which would terminate the right of the Daughters to maintain their property (the Monument) on County property.” The option also suggests giving the UDC “a reasonable period of time” to remove the statue, and, “if they refused, which is likely,” the County could take further steps.
  • Finally, the attorney suggests the board could “assert the County’s First Amendment Free Speech Rights” and say “the location on County property represents government speech that at one time was consistent with the values of the County, but is now inconsistent with those values and conveys a message that is anathema to the views of the County.”

The Commissioners did not discuss anything related to the monument during their September 16 regular meeting. The UDC has an October 1 deadline for submitting a plan for removal of the statue to the board, and if a plan is not given, the county will declare the monument a “public trespass” on November 1.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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Frank

Don't really have a dog in the fight as we're Yankees who moved to the area last year for retirement, but I noticed it is engraved on the memorial that it was a "gift". The term "gift" would appear to indicate that there was a conveyance or transfer of the monument from the UDC to the county or town. Unless "gift" had a different meaning in 1907.

Tuesday, September 24