Chatham County leaders get feedback about whether to remove a Confederate statue

A Confederate statue in Pittsboro is the latest to draw attention.

A protest against the statue failed to materialize Monday prior to the regular Chatham County Commissioners’ meeting after an online rumor suggested one may take place.

Chatham County Sheriff Mike Robertson took no chances and ordered metal barricades to be placed around the statue and the main entrance to the Historic Courthouse where it stands. Deputies and Pittsboro police patrolled the traffic circle at the center of downtown until the commissioners’ meeting was over.

About 25 people who support the statue remaining at its current location at the courthouse gathered near the barriers but no confrontations occurred, which was a relief to the commissioners.

“I think the sheriff’s office there to manage it was probably a good idea,” said Commissioner Jim Crawford. “This is a divisive issue. It is an issue about a symbol, which has historic meaning, but the meaning and contemporary times is also what’s prompting the discussion.”

During the meeting, a handful of people spoke about the statue during public comment time.

Elizabeth Haddix, who is a civil rights attorney, said she would like to see the statue taken down.

“Every time I come around the traffic circle and see that statue, it is a monument to white supremacy,” she said. “The historical documents show what it stands for. The statue needs to come down. It’s about time it comes down.”

Statue supporter Parker Stockdale, who said he had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War, gave a rundown of the numbers people from Chatham and North Carolina who took part in the war. Stockdale said the some people have warped meaning of these statues.

“Some people can’t get over their wounded PC sensitivity and find something else to whine about,” he said. “You can’t rewrite history. If the way we honor our dead bothers you in some way, exercise your hard-fought freedom and get the hell out of here.”

Two people spoke in favor of removing the statue and two spoke in favor of it remaining in place.

“Tonight was evenly divided,” Crawford said. “In the past, it’s been a different blend.”

There was no agenda item regarding the statue. It was only a discussion from residents to the board.

“All we really have is a group of citizens, to my understanding, who want to make a presentation to us and make a legal argument for how why the statue could be returned to its rightful owners,” Chairman Mike Dasher said.

The next board meeting is April 15.

The statue was erected in 1907 during the height of the Jim Crow era. It was a gift from the Daughters of the Confederacy and is inscribed “TO THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF CHATHAM COUNTY / OUR CONFEDERATE HEROES.”

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter Clark spoke at the statue’s dedication, according to NCpedia.

Confederate statues in Durham and Chapel Hill were toppled in the past two years after numerous protests. A statue of Robert E. Lee at Duke Chapel on the university campus was damaged by vandals and subsequently removed from its alcove by the school in 2017. A statue in Winston-Salem was removed by the city last week.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun