ActivePaper Archive ACTBAC brings monument case before county board - Burlington Times News, 8/22/2017

ACTBAC brings monument case before county board

The unexpected topic for Monday’s Alamance County Board of Commissioners meeting was Confederate statues and memorials.

A group of ACTBAC (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County) members appeared before the board to ask it to consider keeping the Confederate statue in downtown Graham.

Gary Williamson, founder of the ACTBAC, got through only two paragraphs of a speech he wrote before a buzzer stopped him.

“There is a battle going on like none of us have ever seen before,” Williamson said. “For those of us that understand and know the truths of history, we are facing an unsure future. It is very important that our elected leaders in the community know that the recent events that transpired in Charlottesville do not lay on the backs of our county or the great state of North Carolina.”

Williamson explained that he has never met anyone who claimed to be a part of the KKK or Nazi Party.

“No Southern man that stands behind the truths of Southern history will ever stand beside a man holding a Nazi symbol,” Williamson said. “The men and women that hold these Confederate monuments dear to our hearts share a stand for no reason other than pride and honor for the sons and fathers that answered the call to defend their homes, their families and their rights. To me personally, I know each and every inch of my family history, and I have eight links of Confederate ancestors. Not one owned slaves. Our monuments are no different than a grave marker for the sons and fathers that did not return home from the battles that they believed to be worthy of cause.”

Others claimed that the m o n u m e n t s h o u l d s t a y because of its history and what it represents.

“My great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier, and I was proud of that because my opinion of his fight was for his rights,” one man said. “I am really concerned about our monument. I want it to stay. It reminds me that I got a little rebel in me. We all have a little rebel in us, even the ladies. I am asking you people here tonight to support keeping our monument. It breaks my heart that my history has to be lied about and degraded by people that really don’t know what they are talking about.”

T h e c o m m i s s i o n e r s responded to the comments by explaining that the monument being taken down or removed was not on the agenda for that night and is not even an option for the board to execute. They also reflected personal feelings on the matter.

“Some people don’t like our monument because they say it honors a civilization that was built on the cruelty, white supremacy, the institutional exploitation of people based on race, and all decent people abhor those things, as I do, and therefore the monument, they say, should come down, even unlawfully and by force,” Commissioner Amy Scott Galey said. “Doing things unlawfully and by force is never the right answer. If the monument were ever to be moved or removed, it must be done after the appropriate political process has been seen to. Otherwise, anarchists and bullies get their way. That is forcing one point of view on another without following the law, and that is just as un-American as racism and white supremacy. I do not support that. I promise you, if anything happens to that monument unlawfully, I will vote to restore it and replace it right where it is now.”

She continued to denounce unlawful removal of statues by arguing that the money spent on restoring the statue could instead go toward schools and other important programs.

“Anybody who really cares about the health and well being, the future of Alamance County, wants to avoid spending money on fixing the monument or replacing it. Please leave the monument alone so we don’t have to spend that money to fix and replace it,” Galey said.

Commissioners Bob Byrd and Bill Lashley ultimately agreed that the monument should stay.

“It is a symbol of heritage and honor and valor and various things,” Byrd. “To others, it is a symbol of racism and hatred.”

“This monument was erected decades ago, and from these monuments, they reflect our history and our culture. Good or bad, history is what it is,” Lashley said. Commissioner Tim Sutton finalized the board’s comments by admitting he is a chartered member of the Sons of the Confederacy and hinted that his family once owned slaves.

“I will never vote to do anything to take that statue or monument away from here for whatever reason,” Sutton said. “If it comes down, it goes back up. To heck with facts. The emotions have just gone haywire. I am not going to be a victim of political correctness. I am just not going to do it. Label me all you want, say what you will about me.

“I am not ashamed of my great-grandfather,” Sutton continued. “He did what he did. It is my understanding that when he died, from Sarah, my grandmother, that some guys on the farm, you can call them slaves if you want to, but I would just call them workers, that they raised a good bit of my family. When the time came, my great-grandmother gave them land. I am not going to be an assault on logic, an assault on the history of this country and the heritage of this area and this country. Not going to do it.”

AFTER TALK OF Confederate statues and monuments was finished, the board approved spending $1.2 million in county funds for mental health services. Four contracts coming to $1.2 million will be spent on mental health services, most of which will go to keeping people with mental illnesses out of jail, for the rest of the fiscal year. The board also approved an Alamance-Burlington School System request to use $78,000 in lottery funds for school repairs, including a playground ramp, a gym, building access and roof evaluations. This will leave close to $2.4 million in the fund balance.

The board also set a public hearing on Sept. 18 to discuss changes to the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance because of new flood insurance rate maps from the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Contact Kate Croxton at

kate.croxton@thetimesnews. com or 336-506-3078.