BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell County commissioners voted Tuesday to relocate the Confederate memorial in front of the Iredell County Government Center to a public cemetery in the City of Statesville.
Chairman James Mallory introduced a resolution to begin the process. “While the monument’s presence at the seat of County government appears to be of little or no consequence to the majority of Iredell County citizens, it is hurtful to a significant number of African-American citizens who live and work in our communities,” the resolution says in part.
Commissioners Melissa Neader, Gene Houpe and Marvin Norman voted with Mallory in support of the resolution, which was opposed only by Scottie Brown.
The resolution calls for the monument to be relocated to either Fourth Creek Cemetery or Oakwood Cemetery, both of which have gravesites for fallen soldiers. As part of the relocation process, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 387 and local Daughters of the Confederacy will consulted.
County Manager Beth Jones will be involved in selecting the new site, and the county will bear the cost of relocation, according to the resolution.
The monument’s continuing presence sparked dozens of protests in 2020 by people who believe it celebrates the Confederacy by calling the war a “just” cause. Others have pointed out that it was constructed during the Jim Crow era in an effort to intimidate Black citizens.
Defenders of the monument claim it is an important piece of history and an important memorial to county residents who died during the Civil War.
During the past eight months, commissioners have received considerable input from individuals and groups on both sides of the issue at board meetings and during private and public conversations with their constituents.
“As I mentioned several months ago, I discovered that regardless of the race-neutral policy procedures we have that, in fact, there is some residual elements of discrimination that do exist in our society and our laws and in our procedures,” Mallory explained Tuesday.
“These are very real and they are tolerated by some better than others. In any case, no one should have to carry these additional loads,” he added.
Mallory said that it’s incumbent upon the Board of Commissioners for everyone in the community to achieve their highest and best potential.
“In this process, I have examined my own perspectives and they have been informed by individuals I greatly respect and I have come to the conclusion personally by the law and by my experience in the Army and my faith — I believe that we cannot just sit back. We need to be proactive in addressing these issues,” he said.
Neader, the vice chair, said the resolution was the result of months of community input.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve considered all thoughts and aren’t being demanded or forced” to relocate the monument, she said.
Despite voting to support the resolution, Houpe said he was adamantly against moving the monument.
In an effort to explain his position, Houpe shared an anonymous quote: “History is not there for you to like or dislike. It is there for you to learn from it. And if it offends you, then even better. Because then you are less likely to repeat it. It is not yours to erase. It belongs to all of us.”
Norman, who participated in the meeting remotely, did not make any comments on the issue.
Brown cast the lone dissenting vote.
“When we can’t walk into this room and pray, we are giving up our rights every day. It bothers me. It’s not something I’m good with,” he said.
RESOLUTION OF THE IREDELL COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS IN SUPPORT OF THE RELOCATION OF CONFEDERATE MONUMENT CURRENTLY LOCATED AT THE IREDELL COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER
WHEREAS, in 1895 a fundraising campaign amongst citizens of Iredell County began for the purchase and placement of a monument to memorialize the ultimate sacrifice of at least 597 Soldiers from Iredell County who had died in the service of the State of North Carolina while detailed to the Confederate States of America; and
WHEREAS, the monument, titled “Our Confederate Dead,” served as the only memorial for Soldiers who died on distant battlefields, or of disease, and whose gravesites were unknown to families or unmarked in any way; and
WHEREAS, the fundraising, design and organization of the placement of the monument was undertaken by the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Col. Reuben Campbell Camp of Confederate Veterans, and was ultimately erected in front of the newly built Iredell County Courthouse in 1905 and dedicated in 1906 on Confederate Memorial Day; and
WHEREAS Iredell County allowed placement of the memorial monument by the aforesaid organizations on county property but has asserted no claim of ownership; and
WHEREAS, the statue on the memorial monument depicts the common Soldier and not a specific individual; and
WHEREAS, at the time of the dedication, the vast majority of Iredell County residents were either alive in 1865 or were descendants of families who were present in Iredell County during the Civil War; and
WHEREAS, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 387 conducts annual memorial ceremonies and is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the memorial; and
WHEREAS, we understand that while the memorial monument has not been a significant source of controversy for a majority of the people of Iredell County, it has occupied a prominent position in front of the justice system during a period of Jim Crow laws, segregation and endemic discrimination against African-Americans; and
WHEREAS, a common perspective among a significant number of African-American citizens of Iredell County is that the monument served a purpose beyond memorializing the sacrifice of Iredell County Soldiers and continues to serve as a reminder of policies of oppression, having their roots in the system of slavery that existed in the Confederate States of America; and
WHEREAS, despite significant social, economic and legal progress toward equality of rights and opportunity since the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement, there remains much work to be done to eliminate the vestiges and effects of racial discrimination; and
WHEREAS, this Board affirms that it is committed to protecting and expanding the opportunities for every citizen regardless of race, religion, gender or ethnicity to achieve their highest and best potential; and
WHEREAS, recently, and in particular since the summer of 2020, the monument has been the subject of ongoing protests calling for its removal from its current location in front of the Iredell County Government Center; and
WHEREAS, during the public comment period of the Iredell County Board of Commissioner meetings, there have been numerous speakers both for and against relocation of the memorial monument; and
WHEREAS, the opinions expressed represent passionately held beliefs as to the meaning of the memorial, which are diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to each side’s perspectives; and
WHEREAS, this Board is not persuaded by arguments based on identity politics, cancel culture, historical revisionism, racism, Marxist or Fascist ideologies or hateful and offensive speech; and
WHEREAS, the Commissioners of this Board have had numerous direct public and private conversations with individuals and groups providing input on how to best resolve the issue in controversy; and
WHEREAS, while the Commissioners of this Board know that our decisions on many contested issues rarely square the circle and fully “satisfy the offended without offending the satisfied,” and that while the majority may rule in a democracy, wise decisions take into account the views of all of our citizens and consider the disparate effects on individuals and groups; and
WHEREAS, that while the monument’s presence at the seat of County government appears to be of little or no consequence to the majority of Iredell County citizens, it is hurtful to a significant number of African-American citizens who live and work in our communities; and
WHEREAS, this Board does acknowledge the heartfelt perspectives of those whose Confederate ancestors the monument was designed to recognize and memorialize, as well as African-Americans who, after it’s placement, continued to suffer systemic discrimination; and
WHEREAS, this Board desires that public statues, monuments and memorials located at or adjacent to government and judicial buildings serve to unify and inspire our communities; and
WHEREAS, it is evident that the Confederate memorial does not foster a sense of unity and common purpose within our community given its location at the seat of County government; and
WHEREAS, such a memorial monument commemorating Soldiers who have fallen in the service of their State serves the same purpose as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located in Arlington National Cemetery; and
WHEREAS, there are two cemeteries owned by the City of Statesville, namely Fourth Creek Cemetery and Oakwood Cemetery, both of which have gravesites of former Confederate Soldiers who were contemporaries of those fallen Confederate Soldiers who have no known or close gravesites; and
WHEREAS, it is the Board’s belief that such a memorial monument should be placed on hallowed ground to firmly establish its’ purpose as a memorial in tribute and testament to these Soldier’s ultimate sacrifice, and at a place that allows the public to visit and commemorate, with no other purpose now or in the future.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED by the Iredell County Board of Commissioners, that:
- This Board requests the participation of the Statesville City Council to assist in the relocation of the Confederate memorial monument by making available a suitable location in either the Fourth Creek Cemetery or Oakwood Cemetery, as well as working with the necessary parties to affect the relocation by mutual agreement; and
- The Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 387 and/or the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy be consulted in the site selection and process of relocation; further, it is the desire of this Board that these organizations be authorized to conduct Confederate Memorial Day or Decoration Day ceremonies at the new location, as in years past; and
- The County Manager investigate the costs of relocation to the site designated by the parties and report back to this Board, as it is the intent of the Board that the County bear the costs of relocation upon the availability of funds.