McDONOUGH – The statue on the McDonough Square will be removed and moved to another location to be determined, but it will not be destroyed.
The Henry County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday, with Gary Barham voting in opposition, to remove the Confederate statue from the McDonough Square within 60 days and to either donate it or move to an area deemed appropriate.
Those that voted in favor, including District 2 Commissioner Dee Clemmons, who requested the item be placed on the agenda, emphatically stated that the statue would not be destroyed, but would be preserved and placed in storage.
Clemmons mentioned that the area within the McDonough Square is owned by the Henry County government and stated the area is not the place for a Confederate monument.
Vivian Thomas, who represents District 4, stated that the McDonough Square, like any other public space supported by taxpayer dollars, should be a place for people to feel welcomed and not intimidated.
“It is intimidating to some people,” Thomas said of the statue. “We are not surrounded by other (statues) from other cultures. The Holocaust was horrible, but you don’t see symbols of Adolf Hitler. There are places where you can choose where you can learn about it, but it shouldn’t be in my passing.”
District 3 Commissioner Gary Barham, who voted against the motion, asked to table the motion so District 1 Commissioner Johnny Wilson could provide his opinions. Wilson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of different views on the statue,” Barham said. “We need to let everybody be heard, in public hearings or more Zoom meetings, I’m open for discussions. Slavery was the worst thing to happen in this country, and I’m ashamed of it, but that (statue) doesn’t just represent slavery. People that fought for the Confederacy couldn’t even decide. They were just drafted, whether they believed in it or not.”
Barham argued that removing the statue would be “sanitizing history.”
The statue, located in the center of the McDonough Square, was erected in 1910 by funds raised through the Charles T. Zachry Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
There were discussions concerning who owned the statue in the first place, and no one in the meeting – commissioners or County Attorney Patrick Jaugstetter – was able to answer whether or not the statue was owned by the county or the city of McDonough or by a private party, as neither Henry County’s or McDonough’s records stretched as far back as 1910.
A petition had been placed online calling for the statue’s removal, which had been signed by over 13,500 respondents.
The petition refers to the statue as a product of a movement known as the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” that refers to the Confederate cause during the American Civil War as just and heroic.
“It is an ideology that endorses the supposed virtues of the antebellum South, viewing the war as a struggle primarily to save the Southern way of life, or to defend ‘states’ rights,’ in the face of overwhelming ‘Northern aggression,’” wrote petition writer William Crane. “At the same time, the Lost Cause minimizes or even denies outright the central role of slavery in the buildup to and outbreak of the Civil War.”