ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — More than two dozen people spoke during a packed public hearing Tuesday evening in Abingdon about whether to move a statue honoring Confederate soldiers.
There were passionate comments both for and against moving the statue located outside the historic Washington County Courthouse in Abingdon. The statue has been there since 1907.
More than two dozen people signed up to speak at the public hearing by the county’s board of supervisors.
“To take down our monuments and remove them from the public square is an effort to erase history,” said Bill Gibson. “This is not New York City. This is not Richmond, Virginia…this is Southwest Virginia.”
“Not everyone wants to celebrate a Confederate statue,” said Mary Lynn Tate.
While there were plenty of comments, the hearing remained civil.
“I believe in keeping the statues, keeping our history…we can’t change it, we can’t tear it down. But, we can learn from it,” said David Fleenor.
“History is meant to be remembered. It is not always meant to be celebrated,” Elizabeth Ivey said. “While I believe that these actions of statue removals and relocations can be a prerequisite to change, I also believe that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
Two presentations were given during the hearing: one with a petition asking that the statue be relocated to Sinking Spring Cemetery where Confederate soldiers are buried.
“People in the community are thinking about this in a deep way and seeing that these monuments being at the steps to our hall of justice is problematic,” said UVA-Wise Professor Heather Evans.
The other presentation, given by retired history teacher Randy Smith, called for keeping the statue where it is.
Smith said the statue honors Confederate soldiers from Southwest Virginia.
“This makes our statue fundamentally different from many others and worthy of remaining where it is,” Smith said. “It is indeed, as many folks say, emblematic of rural southern heritage, not hate.”
Renovations at the historic courthouse will begin sometime in the future. The matter of the Confederate statue is expected to be taken up during that process. There is not a timeline for the courthouse renovation project.
No action was taken by the board of supervisors at the meeting.