Discussion over Confederate statue outside courthouse begins in Bell County

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 10:32 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 3:14 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - The Bell County Commissioners Court heard from at least 130 residents Wednesday at an open forum discussing whether to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier outside the Bell County Courthouse.

Each person who signed up to speak was given five minutes to address commissioners about the proposal to remove the statue from courthouse grounds.

Residents were passionate at the start of the nearly six hour workshop, with the first hour and half filled with cheers, and boos as members of each side spoke to commissioners.

“The hissing and the booing and all of that belongs in a middle school if anywhere but it doesn’t belong here,” Judge David Blackburn said Wednesday after he says he couldn’t hear a residents comments due to shouting both in support and against their words.

The statue was donated by the Daughters of the Confederacy and those who want it to stay said Wednesday that it is a memorial for the men of Bell County who died at war.

“Its not a memorial for the confederacy its a memorial for those boys that died those patriots, those heroes. That statue needs to say right where it is,” Ralph Schneider of Holland said.

Many suggested building new statues that celebrate black lives, or modifying the one at the courthouse to acknowledge the counties changed stance on slavery.

“Why did these ladies raise that money for that statue? They raised that money for a confederate memorial for their husbands their fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins. They were honoring the men of Bell County who marched off to war,” John Perry of Salado said.

But many on the other side disagree, saying the statue was put up to intimidate black residents after the civil war.

Lauren Phillips referenced the time when the statue was put up, saying it was more than 50 years after the war ended.

“Its a confederate soldier who represents a cause that supported slavery. For those of you that don’t think it was about slavery if you look up the articles of the confederacy you will see that preserving slavery was one of their goals,” a woman who did not give her name stated.

They want the monument moved off the courthouse grounds, suggesting the Bell County Museum or two Belton cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried.

“The request to relocate the statue is not an anti-veteran movement, its simply a request to move the statue to a more appropriate location,” Rucker Preston said.

Some at the workshop offered to contribute to costs associated with relocating the statue.

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor President Dr. Randy O’Rear told commissioners during the meeting that the school would be willing to contribute as much as $10,000 to relocate the statue, pointing out that former university President Dr. John Hardy delivered the keynote address when the statue was dedicated in 1916.

According to commissioner, Bill Schumann, the estimated cost of moving the statue, engineering a new platform and re-erecting it is about $150,000.

“If the statue is relocated, it will not erase the tragedy of the Civil War or the evil consequences of slavery in our country,” O’Rear said.

“But perhaps if it is removed from the front of a building that represents justice and equality, it can become a learning tool that reminds us of the tragic impact that racism has made on so many people’s lives.”

The commissioners will review residents input, however many speaking Wednesday said they wanted the decision to come down to a vote.

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