County Judge Andy Eads (R) read a lengthy statement early in the meeting explaining the rationale for removing the monument.
He recognized the memorial’s history and legacy, but said that some see it as “a symbol of oppression.”
“In today’s climate, as we watch the news reports of other artifacts being desecrated…we came to believe the time had come for action,” Eads said.
He mentioned that business owners in the square around the courthouse, hit hard by the COVID-19 closure orders, were continuing to suffer lost business during daily protests by those who link the Confederate memorial to the recent killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The memorial will be removed and retained until it can be “reinterpreted for educational purposes.”
The commissioners heard over 45 minutes of public comment about the monument’s removal.
Peggy Riddle, director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, recommended that the commissioners proceed with the request to the Texas Historical Commission to remove the monument from the Denton County courthouse grounds.
“We see this as preservation of the memorial,” she said.
The monument was designated as a State Antiquities Landmark in 1981 and thus can not be removed without permission of the Texas Historical Commission.
Commissioners Hugh Coleman (R), Ron Marchant (R), Bobbie Mitchell (R), and Dianne Edmondson (R) joined Eads in voting unanimously to ask permission to remove the memorial monument.
The twelve-foot tall, arch-shaped monument features the figure of a Confederate private facing south, as if heading home. It was placed by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on June 3, 1918.
On one of the columns upholding the arch is inscribed a portion of Tennyson’s “Tiresias.”
“Their names graved on memorial columns are a song heard far in the future, and their examples reach a hand through all the years to meet and kindle generous purpose and mold it into acts as pure as theirs.”
The Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square Art Committee held a series of four public meetings in November and December of 2019 to receive public input on the committee’s plan to provide “specific context to the existing memorial that would tell the full story of race relations in Denton County from the time of slavery to the present time.”
In 2017, the Denton County Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee was formed. They voted 12-3 to retain the memorial with context. That committee was disbanded and replaced by the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square Art Committee in 2019.
Riddle said the memorial arch has been defaced with graffiti in the past and is in need of restoration and cleaning.
Commissioner Coleman asked about the next steps after submitting an application for removal.
Riddle said that the Texas Historical Commission is meeting next week, and she hopes Denton’s application will be on the agenda so that the application will be considered.
If the application is approved, the memorial will be dismantled, cleaned, and stored until it can be displayed for historical and educational purposes, Riddle added.
The Tarrant County Commissioners Court also voted on Tuesday to remove a Confederate memorial from its courthouse grounds.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.