Williamson County’s Confederate monument drawing community criticism

The Williamson County Confederate Soldiers & Sailors monument stands outside of the former Williamson County courthouse in Georgetown, Texas (KXAN Photo\Frank Martinez)
The Williamson County Confederate Soldiers & Sailors monument stands outside of the former Williamson County courthouse in Georgetown, Texas (KXAN PhotoFrank Martinez)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — The growing controversy surrounding Confederate monuments across the country is expanding to Williamson County where residents addressed the issue with county commissioners.

A 100-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier towers over Georgetown’s square, standing just outside of the county’s historic courthouse and surrounded by tourist-friendly shops and restaurants on the square.

County residents spoke both in support of and against the monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers and sailors during a packed house for the commissioners’ regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, just a day after the University of Texas removed Confederate monuments from its campus.

The statue is drawing divisions between people who want to see it contextualized and those who say it represents history and should not be changed.

“Thought I would drive down here and take a look at it,” Greg Black said after reading a story about Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, “maybe take some pictures of some of the remaining monuments in the world before they’re all erased.”

Black didn’t go to the meeting; he walked up to the Williamson County Courthouse afterward, camera in hand. “It’s a reminder of some of our tragic history,” he said of the monuments.

Although he doesn’t necessarily feel connected to a Southern identity, he doesn’t want to see those reminders altered. Many others also stopped by the courthouse throughout the day to take pictures of — and with — the monument.

“Unless we have some historical context, what we’re teaching our children over and over again is what happened in Charlottesville,” Jaquita Wilson-Kirby said.

She’s been fighting for that context with the group Courageous Conversations and is asking county commissioners again to consider placing a plaque at the site that explains why the monument was erected in front of the courthouse.

“The statue’s purpose was to intimidate people of color,” she said, “to make it hard for people of color to walk into this building.”

Commissioners have considered options for the monument in the past. They considered adding a plaque addressing the reality of slavery in the county; however, the issue was put on hold because it arrived on the commissioners’ desks without enough time for review before a midnight deadline.

A statue of Dan Moody, the former Texas Governor and Williamson County prosecutor responsible for the first successful prosecution of the KKK in Texas, was placed on the courthouse grounds in an effort to balance the Confederate monument. That effort fell short in some people’s eyes, though, in part because he was prosecuting the KKK members for the tarring and flogging of a white man, while activists say abuses against African-Americans went unrecognized.

Groups opposed to the Confederate monument are asking it to be moved to a nearby museum or to a cemetery where Confederate soldiers are buried.

Black hopes that the monument stays up and that the country can move on to what he says are more pressing issues. “Let’s get everybody fed in this country,” he said. “Let’s stop the wars that we have overseas. This isn’t going to accomplish anything.”

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