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Confederate statue will have company

GATESVILLE – After several months of fact finding and soul searching, a group of six Gates County residents have reached a decision on the fate of the 106-year-old Confederate monument that sits on county-owned property in downtown Gatesville.

That monument will stand, but it will be joined by a newer one that the Confederate Statue Committee believes will contain wording that reflects the current diversity in the county.

The Gates County Board of Commissioners has approved the committee’s recommendation to erect the new monument.

“We feel that tearing down the [Confederate] monument is not in the county’s best interest,” said Lee Brooks who chaired the committee, which also included Debra Lee, Betty Hora, Guy Holley, Joyce Lassiter, and Malcolm Sears, Jr.

Brooks added that the committee understood the frustration and emotions that can come from tackling an issue such as monument removals in today’s society.

“We spent countless hours researching the history behind the monuments and the Civil War,” Brooks said. “We looked at how our monument came about; how it started.”

Committee members estimated they have talked with or heard from 400-to-500 Gates County citizens directly about this issue.

“As we gathered together to meet, we had opportunities to not only share our own viewpoints, but to listen to the rationale behind the viewpoints of others,” Brooks stated. “We were able to embrace the values of those who don’t always think like us or look like us. We were able to agree that each viewpoint was relevant and should not be ignored.”

Brooks said that after studying several options, the committee opted to erect a new, smaller monument adjacent to the existing one. It will be a stone tablet, measuring 42 inches wide and 40 inches tall with a bevel top. That tablet will be positioned on top of a 54-inch x 14-inch base. Both the tablet and the base will be eight inches thick.

The new monument will read as follows:

“United We Stand”

Dedicated 2021

By The Citizens of Gates County, NC

“The Civil War was a major event in US history that cost the lives of thousands of citizens and left the landscape in ruins. Despite losing the war, there was a movement in the south during the era of Jim Crow to memorialize and honor veterans who sacrificed their lives for the right to secede from the union while defending the institution of slavery.

The honors given to these veterans in the past do not represent our values as of today. Citizens of Gates County value unity, racial equality, inclusion and acceptance. We are a community who respect and love each other in spite of our cultural, religious and political differences. Being an example of a good citizen and neighbor, we look to serve as positive role models for the next generation of young people.

“Removing the Confederate Monument will not end racism. Let it serve as a reminder for who we are and who we are not. Hatred has no place in Gates County. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

The committee received a price of $4,000 from Davis Monuments in Elizabeth City. That price includes the monument, granite pad, lettering, and installation.

There was a second recommendation made by the committee, a smaller monument consisting of a pedestal sign positioned on two posts. The sign will have the same wording and be 30″ x 36″ single facing cast aluminum that will include the county seal.

A cost estimate has been received from Lake Shore Industries, Inc. in the amount of $3,510.90. That cost does not include shipping.

“We like option number one,” Brooks said.

He then added a personal statement.

“This monument is how we do things in Gates County; it’s our opportunity to say we do things differently here.”

“I can see where this committee took their time and spent hours and hours on their research and reaching a decision; thank you to the committee for the job you did,” stated Commissioner Linda Hofler.

“This monument brings more dignity to the issue and more dignity to the work of this committee,” Commission Vice Chairman Jack Owens said.

“This is a very sensitive topic all across our country,” noted Commissioner Jonathan Jones. “Ya’ll were respectful of each other’s opinions and listened to the opinions of our citizens. I appreciate the work all of you did.”

“What I like about this committee is that we tasked you with the assignment then didn’t see you anymore until today,” stressed Commission chair Dr. Althea Riddick. “Nobody got upset. We didn’t put any leverage on you. You talked to our citizens. You were respectful of others ideas. We’re grateful for all you did.”

On a motion from Jones, the commissioners, based on the recommendation of the Confederate Monument Committee, approved option one. The $4,000 will come from the Governing Body’s Expense line item in the current year budget.

Brooks added that he would like the county to conduct a ceremony to unveil the new monument and to consider hosting a cookout for the public to coincide with that event.

Riddick said the board will take that suggestion under consideration.

There is no specific timetable to erect the new monument.

The Confederate monument in Gatesville, located on the grounds of the Cooperative Extension Office, was unveiled and dedicated on July 8, 1915. It memorializes Gates County’s Confederate veterans, in particular William P. Roberts, a county native and youngest General in the Confederate Army, commissioned at the age of 23.

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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