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My Turn, Ed Norvell: Do we want to continue to litigate Confederate monument?

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a letter writing campaign opposing the move of the Confederate monument, popularly known as “Fame,” from its place of prominence on West Innes Street.  

A common theme of the letters is that this monument honors veterans. But I remind you that the veterans it honors fought against the United States, not for it. They also want the statue to be placed in a local public park or a “place of prominence” in our community. To move it to another prominent location would make it a constant source of division and conflict in our community.  

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Smith; he has been a very generous philanthropist in our community, but I think he is wrong about this issue. The statue is not and has never been public property that would warrant a “public referendum” to decide its fate, which would also be a very divisive event. It is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and for years sat on a parcel of land that was “deeded” to the group by the city fathers at that time. 

Last year, an agreement was reached between the city of Salisbury and the local leadership of the UDC that was also signed by the state and national leadership of their organizations. Approving this agreement was a unanimous decision of the city council with advice from the city attorney and others about the legality of the action. This vote was taken after a public hearing at which many people spoke out. The local chapter of the NAACP supported it as did other groups concerned with social justice and historic preservation. 

The city agreed to remove the statue and put it in storage. Deeds were exchanged. The UDC quit claimed their interest in the median in exchange for a deed to a parcel in the old Lutheran cemetery on North Lee Street, the oldest cemetery in Salisbury, which is owned by the city of Salisbury. Private money was raised to prepare the site to place the statue in the cemetery. This includes money for a concrete and brick pad, security fencing, lighting and cameras directly connected with the police department which is located three blocks away. The work of preparing this site has begun and is almost completed. 

I believe the new location for the statue is a “quiet contemplative place” in front of markers for 175 confederate soldiers who are buried there. The cemetery is not “abandoned” but is very historic and maintained by the city. It may not be a place of prominence, but in my opinion is an appropriate place for the statue. 

Do we want to continue to litigate this issue as other communities have done such as Statesville, Lexington, Asheville, Alamance, Gastonia, Lincolnton and other cities throughout the South, or do we want to find a peaceful resolution for locating the statue that will not further divide our community? 

I am proud of what we were able to accomplish as a community and believe this is a model for other communities to follow; to undo this agreement would be a terrible mistake for unity and progress in our community. 

Ed Norvell lives in Salisbury and led a fundraising effort for amenities at the new location of “Fame.”

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