Public forum sets up historic decision on Confederate monuments

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- A special committee met Wednesday for the first and only time in front of the general public ahead of its upcoming decision on whether or not to relocate three Confederate monuments from North Carolina's State Capitol.

The five-member Study Committee on Relocation of Monuments is hoping to recommend action by April.

"I truly believe we owe each other the dignity and decorum of the process," committee chair David Ruffin told the crowd of about 100.

The Study Committee's charge follows a petition from Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Administration to relocate the three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site in Four Oaks.

The 11-member North Carolina Historical Commission voted to appoint a committee from commission members to study the issue and seek advice and legal opinions from appropriate entities. All commissioners serve six-year terms and are nominated by the governor (four current members were nominated by Cooper, seven by former Gov. Pat McCrory).

Wednesday's hearing drew comments from dozens of North Carolina residents representing cities and towns from across the state.

"Our ancestors fought and died for state's rights," Shannon Rights, of Winston-Salem, asserted to the committee. "These memorials are in remembrance of their sacrifice and serve as gravestones for those who did not return home to North Carolina."

"When we were still a young state, we expressed the belief that government was of, by and for the people - and yet some of us were denied the basic definitions of humanity," Raleigh resident Charles Lane countered.

While certainly a politically charged debate, emotions have cooled somewhat since a tumultuous summer in North Carolina and its neighboring states.

On August 14, dozens of Durham protesters ripped down a Confederate monument in front of the Durham County Courthouse after a white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Duke University, as a private institution, was able to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from the famed Duke Chapel on August 19, but state law prohibits any public action without the consent of the NC Historical Commission.


According to the North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources, the Tar Heel State hosts 111 confederate statues and monuments, with 98 of them dedicated after 1900.

The tall obelisk of the Confederate Soldiers Monument outside the State Capitol was dedicated in 1895 while the Monument to the Women of the Confederacy was dedicated in 1914.

The third statue outside the Capitol, a memorial to Henry Lawson Wyatt, was dedicated in 1912. A native of Edgecombe County, Wyatt is purported to be the first Confederate Soldier killed in action.
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