Lauderdale Commission defers to Florence City leaders on Confederate monument issue

Lauderdale Commission defers to Florence City leaders on Confederate monument issue
A crowd chants "take it down" after Florence Mayor Steve Holt said he was in favor of moving a Confederate statue that stands outside the Lauderdale County Courthouse (Source: Matt McKean Times Daily)

FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - As debate swirls around Confederate monuments and other historical markers around the world, the Lauderdale County Commission says it’s controversial statue is actually city property.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, the commission discussed the topic during a meeting Monday. People from around the county came forward to express their opinions for more than 90 minutes. “The Confederate states were defeated as treasonous,” the Rev. Billy Ray Simpson said. “Everything dead needs to be buried in the cemetery.” Clint Freeman disagreed. “There’s also a lot of people who love that statue,” Freeman said. “There’s people who love that statue because that represents their ancestors.”

People stand in the rain as the Lauderdale County Commission discusses the possibility of moving a Confederate monument outside the courthouse.
People stand in the rain as the Lauderdale County Commission discusses the possibility of moving a Confederate monument outside the courthouse. (Source: Matt McKean Times Daily)

At one point, Commission Chair Danny Pettus said he received a letter from the United Daughters of the Confederacy about the statue. That letter said that the statue was originally given as a gift to the city of Florence, meaning the city, not the county, has ownership of the statue and say over where it should go. “The city of Florence owns it, and this commission will leave it up to the city of Florence to decide what, if anything, it might do with that monument,” Pettus said.

Florence City Mayor Steve Holt previously suggested moving the monument to a private cemetery known as Soldiers’ Rest. Holt was at the meeting and said he stands by that idea. The next city council meeting is July 7th. The letter from the Daughters of the Confederacy did not object to the idea and adds that a “dignified memorial may be held when the statue is moved in order that the statue is treated with the reverence and respect it is due.”

A private benefactor has already raised money to cover the cost of moving the statue.

Of course, as was the case in Madison County, neither the commission nor the Florence city council actually has final say. A 2017 state law makes it illegal to move statues and other monuments that have been in place for more than 40 years without special permission from a state commission. Violating the law comes with a $25,000 fine, which private donors have committed to pay.

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