The Tarboro Town Council voted 5-3 on Monday to remove the nearly 116-year-old Edgecombe County Confederate Memorial located between Main and St. Andrew streets in the center section of the Town Common.
Mayor Pro Tem Othar Woodard made the motion to remove the marker, made of granite with a bronze statue on top, “with care and respect” and place it in storage until a proper location can be found for its display.
Woodard told the packed house that he had no intent to destroy the monument, only to remove it from public property so that it is no longer in a position to offend Black members of the community and store it until such time as a location could be found for it.
Steve Burnette, Deborah Jordan, Sabrina Bynum, Woodard and Leo Taylor voted in the majority while John Jenkins, Tate Mayo and C.B. Brown all voted in the minority.
The memorial was dedicated on Oct. 29, 1904, and was erected by The Daughters of the Confederacy-William Dorsey Pender Chapter.
Its cost at the time was $2,250 which, according to the CPI inflation calculator, is equivalent to about $65,173 today.
Town Manager Troy Lewis said the cost to take the memorial down will be about $42,500. Earlier this summer, Rocky Mount spent approximately $280,000 to remove its Confederate memorial outside Battle Park, largely because of the size of the memorial and the fact the City Council wanted the memorial removed quickly.
A total of 14 people spoke on the issue. The majority called for removal — although four people, following the lead of Billy Wooten, discussed compromise in their comments to the council.
As was the case during the July council meeting, the discussion from both sides was civil and calm and essentially everyone who spoke talked about making a decision that was best for the community and its residents.
The most heated portion of the meeting came after Woodard made his motion and Ward 5 Councilman John Jenkins offered a substitute motion that would have created a four-person committee to develop the removal plan.
Woodard thought his motion should take precedence and asked Mayor Joe Pitt to make a ruling. Town Attorney Chad Hinton read the rules of parliamentary procedure, which gave the substitute motion precedence.
While not accepting that opinion, Woodard acquiesced and the vote was held — with the substitute motion failing 6-2.
Woodard said his motion did not include the Henry Lawson Wyatt Memorial Fountain, which was erected in Aug. 1910 in memory of Wyatt, who was a member of the Confederate Edgecombe Guards and was the first North Carolinian killed in the Civil War.
“I don’t care anything about the fountain, only about the memorial,” he said.
No time line was offered for the removal.