This article first appeared at American Lens News on September 20, 2017.
Governor Roy Cooper wants to move three monuments which have stood on the state’s capitol grounds in Raleigh for a combined 330 years. Cooper wants to move the three monuments to a battlefield 50 miles away in Johnston county.
It was not until after protesters affiliated with a communist organization toppled a statue in Durham did Governor offered any opinion on the matter. So far, 11 arrests have been made in connection with the Durham statue.
Cooper failed to condemn the criminal activity. Instead, Cooper lamented that unless other monuments are taken down, protesters could get hurt.
Specifically, Cooper gave his ‘approval’ for the removal of the Chapel Hill located ‘Silent Sam statue in a letter addressed and intended for UNC System President Margaret Spellings, which he sent to the press first.
The Governor has no authority over statue and monument removals or relocations. State Statute 100-2.1 protects all monuments and statues in the state. The statute says that approval is required from the Historic Preservation Commission, but there are limitations in place for removal or relocation.
Relocation can take place if “appropriate measures are required by the State or a political
subdivision of the State to preserve the object” or it is “necessary for construction, renovation, or reconfiguration of buildings, open spaces, parking, or transportation projects.”
The only exceptions are highway markers, objects of remembrance on private lands and if the monument in question is deemed to be structurally unsound and therefore a danger to the public.
Cooper’s appointee secretary to the Department of Administration, Machelle Sanders, sent the petition to the state Historic Preservation Commission.
Sanders letter does not specify what should replace the three monuments on the capitol grounds.
The Historic Preservation Commission is next set to meet on September 22nd. Only three of the eleven members are Cooper appointees, one of which is the Deputy Secretary of the department of Natural Resources, Dr. Kevin Cherry.Cherry is also the State Historic Preservation officer.
The State Historic Preservative office’s website includes a preservation plan for 2013-2022 entitled, Legacy – A Gift from the Past for a Better Tomorrow.
The foreword is written by Dr. Cherry, who writes that, “Legacy gives us a compelling direction for how we can collaboratively preserve and steward the most valuable reminders of our shared history from Murphy to Manteo.”
Nowhere in the Legacy plan are confederate era monuments or statues mentioned.
Which Three Monuments?
The three monuments in question are all war memorials, which have stood on the grounds of the Capitol for over a hundred years each.
The Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument
Henry Lawson Wyatt was a North Carolina citizen and the first Confederate soldier to be killed in action during the Civil War. Wyatt lost his life in a battle that took place on June, 10, 1871. The base is granite with a bronze statue of depicting Wyatt atop it.
While the monument represents Wyatt, the purpose was to honor all soldiers of the Confederacy. The inscription on the front reads: Henry Lawson Wyatt, Private Co. A, Bethel Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers. First Confederate Soldier to fall in battle in the war between the states.
The statue was dedicated on June 10, 1912 and has stood on the capitol grounds for 105 years. The total cost of the monument was $4,500.00. Read more and see a photos of the monument at NCPedia.
The Monument to North Carolina Women of the Confederacy
This monument was built using private donations and was unveiled on June 10, 1914 and has stood on the capitol grounds for 103 years.
The monument is 7 feet tall and an inscription on the southern face reads: To the North Carolina Women of the Confederacy.
At the time of its creation, the cost was $10,000. Read more and see a picture of the monument at NCPedia.
The 1895 Confederate soldiers Monument
This monument was unveiled on May 20, 1895 and was dedicated to the fallen Confederate soldiers of North Carolina. It has stood on the grounds of the capitol for 122 years.
At the time of construction, the cost of the monument was $22,000. The monument is 75 feet all and on the front of the base, an inscription reads: To Our Confederate Dead. Read more about this war monument at NCPedia.