MONROE, Ga. — More than 140 people as of Friday afternoon had signed a petition calling for the removal of a monument to Walton County’s Confederate past.
The monument, on the lawn of the Historic Walton County Courthouse in downtown Monroe, has stood for more than a century. A local women’s memorial association was organized to raise money. Their dream was realized on June 1, 1907, when the $2,500 monument of Elbert County granite was dedicated.
But the sentimentality of the early 20th century, when many of the Civil War veterans remained active citizens, has long since given way to a new debate over what the war meant — and what it means now in a time of racial upheaval — and how people in the 21st century should handle those old monuments.
A group calling itself FORM — Fighting Oppression and Racism in Monroe — has called for the removal of statues and monuments ‘that give credence to Confederate ‘causes’ throughout Monroe, Georgia.”
It calls such markers “contemptible symbols of white supremacy, racism and murder.”
The petition cites racist killings in Walton County, including the 1946 lynchings of four people at the Moore’s Ford bridge over the Apalachee River.
The FORM petition is addressed to Monroe Mayor John Howard, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. However, none of these three men likely has a say in the future of the monument.
Instead, that likely would be a county decision, since it sits on county property.
Kevin Little, chairman of the Walton County Board of Commissioners, was out of town late in the week and unavailable for comment.
Howard said he’s researched the statue and noted that it wasn’t put up “in the time of Eugene and Herman Talmadge,” when Georgia embraced its Confederate past as a way of defying the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
“It’s not facing north,” Howard said. “It was put up in 1906, ’07, by a group who lost loved ones in the war.
“No matter how misguided that war, they lost loved ones and I think this helped console them. Our memorial faces west towards the setting sun, which is very symbolic of the sun setting on the Old South.”
Howard said he’d recommend “contextualization,” where the statue remains but with new wording to explain its history.
“Second, I would love to see more art, more statues around town anyway,” Howard said. “I would prefer a person of color. I would prefer a non-athlete. I think a leader of men, someone who has served our country, would be ideal.”
The communications director for Hice, a Republican from Greene County, did not return a request for comment.
An attempt to reach BreAnn Robinson, who created the petition on organizefor.org, was not successful.