PITTSBORO — The Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy released a statement Monday saying that the Confederate monument in front of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse “should not be illegally moved or altered” and that it would be “inappropriate that we re-imagine the statue in any way.”
The statement is the latest in the saga surrounding the monument, which has been the subject of multiple late-night Chatham County Board of Commissioners meetings and public debate over the last few months. The comments, addressed to Commissioners Chairman Mike Dasher, were shared with the News + Record by Barbara Pugh, president of the Winnie Davis Chapter.
According to Pugh, she and Dasher met July 17 regarding a memorandum of understanding between the board and the UDC in which both agreed “to meet, cooperate and work together in good faith” about “reimagining” the monument. After that meeting, it has become the position of the Winnie Davis Chapter — and that of the North Carolina United Daughters of the Confederacy — that the statue should stay where it has been since 1907.
Pugh wrote that the monument was “a gift to the county and is the property of the county,” and thus is covered under a state law that prohibits the removal, relocation or alteration “in any way” of “a monument, memorial or work of art owned by the State.”
Pugh told the News + Record Monday that the UDC determined the statue belonged to the county via “old historical records, organization records, as well as newspaper accounts, notwithstanding the statement on the south side of the statue carved in granite.” The monument’s ownership has been a central point of contention in recent months.
“We understand that each person has their personal opinion and position on the future of the statue,” she wrote in the statement to Dasher. “It is our hope that the County Commissioners will publicly state that the statue is protected by law and that any unlawful action toward it will not be tolerated. For many citizens of the county, this would be the ultimate conclusion of our civil discourse to make the statue respected and secure.”
She closed the statement by saying the UDC would “seek legal opinion from a judge” if the commissioners did not make that public statement.
Reached by email, Dasher said he was “disappointed” by the UDC’s decision.
“I had hoped we could work together and do something unique, particularly at this time when people are so divided,” Dasher told the News + Record. “I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate that here in Chatham County we could do it differently. We’ve heard from so many folks insisting the monument is about honoring their veteran ancestors. How then do you oppose making it a more inclusive monument that would honor all veterans? Obviously it’s about a lot more than that to some, but that’s just not a conversation everyone is ready to have.”
The UDC’s conclusion was surprising to Howard Fifer, a Chatham resident who has been a leading voice for Chatham for All. The group has repeatedly asked the commissioners in the last few months to return the monument to the UDC.
“From what I understand, in order for there to be a gift, there has to be donative intent and acceptance,” Fifer said Monday. “We’ve seen neither of those things in this instance. That doesn’t mean those things don’t exist. I don’t really understand what if any factual basis there might be for their statement.”
Dasher added that there would be more conversation around the monument at the commissioners’ August 19 meeting, the next regular meeting for the board. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in the courthouse, next to where the monument stands.
Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.