The Parker County Courthouse was packed with community members Monday morning during a discussion on the Confederate soldier statue, located on the courthouse lawn.
The issue was whether to have the statue relocated or left where it currently sits.
“The last two or three weeks we’ve been going over this situation, I’ve talked to several of my constituents, talked about how we may have a vote to see if the county wanted to leave it or take it down. Several people I talked to said it was fine. One guy I talked to said, ‘Well, we elected you to make those tough decisions for us, so do your job.’ I decided I was going to vote to keep the statue up until the Daughters of the Confederacy got a hold of me and asked to take the statue somewhere else,” Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said. “The chapter president called me and said that’s what she wanted to do, I said write me a letter and I’ll read it to the commissioners court on Monday. I’m going to honor their wish and make a motion that we do what they’ve asked and we give them their monument back. That’s my motion.”
The letter claimed that the Parker County chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy owned the statue.
Parker County Attorney John Forrest said county staff did extensive research to establish ownership of the statue, which showed that all funding went through the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy and not the county.
“The first thing that the county has to establish is ownership of the statue. The only way the county can ever accept a donation is if it’s formally presented to the court for donation and then accepting that. With that being in mind, we did extensive research through the commissioners court minutes and we went back to the date of the inception of the chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, which we believe to be 1903,” Forrest said. “Based on that 1903 date we went back and searched the records and we searched them through 1949. The statue was erected in 1928, the base was placed in 1915. Throughout all those minutes, we never see any presentation by the Daughters of the Confederacy to either donate it or an acceptance by the commissioners court. So based on that, that statue belongs to the original group that received all the funding for it. The records never indicate that the county ever received any funds of donations to present towards the construction of that statue nor did the county throughout the minutes indicate any donation for that statue.”
According to the minutes from 1911, the commissioners court gave permission to the Daughters of the Confederacy to erect the monument on the courthouse lawn, but there is no record if the statue was donated to the county or not.
Parker County Judge Pat Deen seconded Conley’s motion to have the statue relocated; however, the two withdrew their motions following information presented by Dorothy Norred, the president of the Texas division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which is over all chapters in the state.
“The president of this chapter in Parker County did not have permission of the division to send a letter in requesting that the statue be moved. I am asking you to discard this letter from her because it is not legal for her to do so,” Norred said. “It should go through the executive board of the Texas division and she is not a member of that executive board. We do not want it moved, we want it left where it is.”
Norred said she was made aware of the letter a couple of days ago and she was never contacted about it by the Parker County chapter.
“The Texas division organization is the owner of all statues that have not been gifted to a city, county or anywhere else,” Norred said. “A chapter does not own it, the state does.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden suggested that the county receive some input from the Texas Historical Commission before any action is taken and Norred was asked to bring meeting minutes from the state board.
Norred said the most important thing is to confirm who owns the statue.
“If we do find that the Daughters own it, we will have to work with the [county] on some kind of a agreement, because if the [county] doesn’t own it but they want it moved, then I think they should at least be responsible for the cost of moving it,” Norred said. “We need to find out exactly who owns it. That’s what they’ve been telling us, that we do own it, but I don’t have a document in front of me. I think it needs to be researched more to be positive because I don’t want to take responsibility for something that was gifted to the [county]. Yes, we want it to stay whether it was gifted to the [county] or if we own it. We want it to stay.”
But Forrest said even if the Texas division of the Daughters of the Confederacy minutes reflect ownership to the county, it doesn’t reflect that in [the county's] minutes so it wouldn’t be county property.
Deen recommended they take no action on the item at this time until further research can be done.
“We need to take the emotion out of this — that statue has been up for 100 years — work on this methodically, carefully. We have a lot of work to do on establishing the ownership of this and then from there we can start discussing, so I would recommend we take no action on this. Pulling down a monument that’s been up for 100 years, whether you’re for or against it, has immense emotions. What we need to do as a community is take the emotion out of this and let’s slow down, allow us to work through this,” Deen said. “These decisions shouldn’t be rash. We don’t have the information that we need. History is not there for us to like or dislike, but to learn from. I ask you to be patient with us and allow us to get data before going any further with this.”
The majority of community members present spoke out in favor of removing the Confederate statue.
“You have a statue out here, where’s the balance? Where’s the slave statue to the people who helped build this county, this town? When y’all get elected to these positions, you do not come to black neighborhoods or black churches and ask for votes,” Anthony Crawford said. “You know why? Because we don’t count. When we’re in this court today that’s what we hear from you — we do not matter once again.”
“Just from an economic development standpoint, people that come into our town and see that, some people turn around and go back. When you say take the emotion out of that, I don’t know how you do that because this is hugely emotional to them and frankly I get emotional standing over there seeing people that aren’t being listened to,” Jim Eggleston said. “It doesn’t matter if [Norred] owns it or anybody else owns it, you can tell it to go and they’ll figure it out because you don’t own it, correct? So let’s move forward and take a stand on this.”
David Lee said removing the statue doesn’t change history.
“There are 254 counties in the state of Texas. There’s 50 monuments on county property in the state of Texas. The statue faces south for a reason, it’s for the fallen soldiers, the ones who lived through the war and died of old age. If they face north it’s for the ones that died on the field of battle and that includes the black Confederate soldiers that fought,” Lee said. “That’s why we’re supposed to be united. It’s for all — white, black, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter. If we remove our history, it doesn’t change history, history still happened. All we’re doing is removing something so people don’t see it. It doesn’t change history.”
Mark Stafford said removing statues is to reject what that statue says to the present day.
“What does that statue represent? What does that statue say to someone that’s driving through this area for the first time? Does it say welcome to the area? Statues are not history, statues are symbols to glorify or honor historical figures, but statues are not history,” Stafford said. “You take that statue down the history remains. The removal of statues is to reject what that statue says to the present day.”
Rebecca Hogan said she is ashamed when she sees the monument.
“I love this area and I came here for that reason. When I first noticed that statue, I shook my head and every time I’m heading north on Main [Street] and have to come around and look at that statue, I am ashamed of my city, I am ashamed of my county,” Hogan said. “That statue represents reprehensible bad behavior and people that wanted to tear this nation apart. I love the United States, I love the state of Texas, I want that statue removed. Who owns it is not a matter of whether it gets removed or not.”
Tom McLaughlin said the statue does not represent racism.
“The statue just honors the men, whoever fought in the Civil War, it’s not a monument to racism or anything else. It just honors the people that were killed in the Civil War,” McLaughlin said. “It has nothing to do with black, white, whatever. It’s part of this county, part of this history and we need to quit tearing our history down all over the United States. It has nothing to do with racism. Please don’t destroy what our history is.”
Martha Fagley said the statue represents another time, another country and needs to be taken down.
“We are one country. My ancestors were slave holders, I’m not proud of that, it was what it was and my dad fought in the U.S. Army and defended that flag. This is not about anything but racism and maintaining a division,” Fagley said. “We are all one people and one country. Take the statue down.”
Chad Petross, a local attorney, said having that statue does not help judges and attorneys do their job.
“Our black clients have to walk by that statue on their way in here. Do you think that gives them confidence they’re going to get justice when they’re in here? We have some of the best judges and attorneys in the state of Texas, but that does not help us do our job,” Petross said. “It does not help us give confidence to people who are coming into this courtroom that they’re going to get justice. We all said the pledge of allegiance and at the very end we said, ‘With liberty and justice for all.’”
Donnell Manning said if the county is asking him to disregard his pain, he will never agree with that.
“One thing that bothers me through this whole thing is when we stand we say, ‘Unity and justice for all,’ we say unified,” Manning said. “I understand that the history of the Confederation is our history, but we also have a history of pain and suffering that’s still going on. You telling me to disregard my history, my pain, is selfish and I will never agree with it.”
Gino Napoli said the Confederate soldier represents heritage and history.
“The statue that’s standing out there represents heritage for some and it represents our history of our county,” Napoli said.
Jerry Decker said the county should let the residents decide what to do with the statue.
“I love this place, I love this county, I don’t think it’s for [the commissioners] to decide, I think you should let the county decide what’s going to happen with that statue,” Decker said. “If you decide to remove it, I’ll be happy with that, but I’d like to see it stay. That’s just the way I feel about it.”
Other residents shared their opinions in either removing or keeping the statue before Deen ended the public comment section due to time restraints.
No action was taken at the commissioners court and the topic will be brought back to a future meeting for possible action.