Man offers to help pay to remove Confederate monument

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Wording on the Confederate monument on Falls Road.


Staff Writer

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A former Twin Counties resident has offered to help pay for the removal of a controversial Confederate monument at Battle Park.

Gene Pittman lived in Rocky Mount as an infant and grew up in Whitakers. He now lives in Minneapolis. He said he wants to see the monument taken down, especially after the violence that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters over the removal of a Confederate statue.

“The events in Charlottesville have highlighted the horrible results of racism and bigotry,” Pittman said. “I fully support the removal of the Confederate monument at Battle Park as it is a signifier and sign of slavery. Being white, I witnessed racism and understood how it functions from that perspective.”

Pittman said in an email to the City Council that arguments about preserving history aren't new and he heard the same thing decades ago.

“They are just as hollow now as they were 40 years ago,” Pittman said.

It's been 20 years since Pittman lived in the Twin Counties, but he considers the area his home.

“The time has passed for the removal of this monument and its removal will be nothing but a positive outcome for the city,” Pittman said.

Pittman said he wants to see his home town succeed. 

“Monuments to slavery certainly can not be enticing to businesses or people looking to move there,” Pittman said.

He's ready and willing to assist with funding the relocation when the city is ready, Pittman said.

The local chapter of the NAACP is planning a community forum about the monument for next week, said Rocky Mount Councilman Andre Knight, who serves as the organization's president.

Knight said a date, time and venue for the meeting will be announced as soon as the details are worked out.

Nash County resident Marc Chappelle said the monument must stay where it's at.

“Andre is always using race to stir up things,” Chappelle said. “I have black friends and white friends. I don't think of them as black or white, just friends. We don't think about racism in Castalia. But Knight is always bringing it up.”

Chappelle also was incensed over comments made Tuesday by Gov. Roy Cooper, who said Confederate monuments need to come down. Cooper, a Nash County native, said he wants to avoid violence like what occurred in Virginia.

“Cooper's out in left field,” Chappelle said. “He needs to stick to politics. I never thought I'd hear such things from the dearly beloved governor from here.”

Cooper called on the N.C. General Assembly to repeal a 2015 law preventing the removal of monuments and asked state officials to determine the cost of removing monuments.

Chappelle said trying to remove the monument will just give white supremacists an excuse to act.

“That would be just giving them a platform,” Chappelle said. “They're giving them a reason to do something. It's going to cause a lot of grief.”

Rocky Mount resident John Faulkner said he visited the monument after reading about the brouhaha in the Telegram.

“I'm a white man,” Faulkner said. “I have no problem honoring soldiers who died in the Civil War. But the monument barely makes mention of that. I can see where it would be offensive.”

Language on the monument includes: “This monument is committed to the care of Bethel Heroes chapter U.D.C. Who with their sister daughters are preservers of Southern ideals.”

The monument has wording to indicate a list of Nash County Confederate dead can be found in libraries and at the clerk of court's office.

Faulkner said he would expect more information about the fallen soldiers if that's the purpose of the monument.

The granite monument was erected in 1917 on private land later donated to the city, which maintains the landscaping. The monument has a large square base and a Confederate soldier placed atop a tall Corinthian styled column. The soldier stands at attention with the Confederate flag at his side. C.S.A. and three rifles are engraved in the front of the platform.

Originally a statue of a soldier sat atop four short columns at each corner of the base. The statues were removed years ago due to vandalism, according to information from the library of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.