‘You can call them slaves if you want to... I would call them workers,’ NC commissioner says

Alamance County commissioner Tim Sutton
Alamance County commissioner Tim Sutton Video of the Aug. 21, 2017 Alamance County Commissioners meeting

An Alamance County commissioner referred to slaves as workers during a meeting of the board of commissioners on Monday.

During an unscheduled discussion of Confederate statues and memorials at the commissioners’ meeting Monday, several commissioners stood firm in opposition of the removal of statues in communities across the country.

Republican commissioner Tim Sutton, a chartered member of the Sons of the Confederacy, then alluded to his family once owning slaves, as first reported in the Times-News.

“I am not ashamed of my great-grandfather. He did what he did,” he said. “It is my understanding that when he died ... that some guys on the farm, you can call them slaves if you want to, but I would just call them workers, that they raised a good bit of my family. When the time came, my great-grandmother gave them land. I am not going to be an assault on logic, an assault on the history of this country and the heritage of this area and this country. Not going to do it.

“I am not going to be a victim of political correctness. I am just not going to do it. Label me all you want, say what you will about me.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 was an executive order to change the federal legal status of more than 3 million enslaved people in designated areas of the South from “slave” to “free,” but a slave would have to escape control of the Confederate government by running away or through federal troop advancement to become legally free. Eventually the proclamation would reach and legally liberate all designated slaves.

The proclamation did not cover slaves in Union areas who were freed by state action or the 13th Amendment in 1865. The Civil War ended in 1865. North Carolina rejoined the Union in 1868.

A group of ACTBAC (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County) members attended the meeting to ask that commissioners not remove a Confederate statue in downtown Graham.

In his speech about the statue, ACTBAC founder Gary Williamson said a battle is being waged “like none of us have ever seen.”

“For those of us that understand and know the truths of history, we are facing an unsure future,” Williamson said. “It is very important that our elected leaders in the community know that the recent events that transpired in Charlottesville do not lay on the backs of our county or the great state of North Carolina.”

Others at the meeting also appealed to the board not to remove the statue. Removal of the statue was not on the agenda for the meeting and commissioners said taking it down was not an option.

And Sutton said he would never support removing the statue.

“If it comes down, it goes back up. To heck with facts,” he said. “The emotions have just gone haywire.”

Watch a video of the Aug. 21 Alamance County commissioners meeting at