Members of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have now joined in with other initiatives across the South, asking for a Confederate monument to be removed.
Standing just outside the entrance of the Sampson County Courthouse, a monument dedicated to the “Confederate Soldiers” is one of more than 100 such monuments across the state. Members of the local city and county governments have received a letter from the Unit No. 5446 NAACP branch requesting immediate action be taken to remove the statue.
When contacted, Lee Byam, chapter president, said the board would like a chance to sit down and discuss the reasoning behind the request, which it was expected to do this week.
“It is this commitment and dedication to this city, county and state that we are requesting that you take immediate action to remove the Confederate statue of a soldier that is located on the courthouse yard,” the letter states. “This Confederate statue is a visual symbol of America’s dark legacy of slavery that deprived human beings of their God-given and constitutionally-protected human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
A 2015 law passed by the General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory makes it illegal to remove “an event, person or military service that is part of North Carolina’s history” without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission, therefore local officials do not have the power to make such decisions about Confederate monuments.
“We are well aware of the state law that prohibits cities and counties from removing Confederate statues or memorials,” the letter reads. “We are asking that you seek action from the state to join several states i.e. California, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, and Texas which have already removed the Confederate statues and memorials.”
According to Clinton Mayor Lew Starling, the property the monument sits on is not owned by the city, but by the county. When contacted, assistant county manager Susan Holder confirmed the ownership of the land, as well as the receipt of the letter.
“We did receive a letter a few weeks back, and we have forwarded a copy of that letter on to our board members,” Holder stated Thursday by telephone. “The board hasn’t taken any action or held any discussion regarding the matter.”
According to Joel Rose, local historian, in September 1908, the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy began working to have a monument erected to commemorate the men of Sampson County who served in the war. Work to secure the monument continued over the next six years, and on May 10, 1914, with over 4,000 people present, the base of the local monument was laid on the courthouse square.
Two flags were placed side by side inside the base, and two years later, the statue was raised to its present position. The statue was unveiled that day by Fanny Holmes McIntyre, great niece of LTC William Sillars.
The monument is scripted with “IN HONOR OF THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF SAMPSON COUNTY ‘Who bore the flag of sacred trust And fell in a cause, though lost, still just And died for me and you.’ 1861-1865.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.