Williamson County votes no to slavery plaque, but statue possible
Williamson County commissioners voted Tuesday against submitting an application to the state for a plaque mentioning slavery to be placed next to a Confederate statue. Some of the commissioners, however, said they would consider other proposals, including a statue honoring the Civil Rights era.
“There needs to be a conversation and exploring what else can be done,” Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis said before the vote.
The Rev. Lou Snead, a member of one of the two groups that proposed the plaque, said he was “surprised and pleased with the level of conversation that took place among the court and their openness to say, ‘We have to deal with this, we just don’t think the plaque is the right way.’ ”
A 21-foot statue of a Confederate soldier that stands outside the Williamson County courthouse was erected in 1916 by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The commissioners voted 4 to 1 against submitting the application for the plaque after hearing from several county residents both for and against it. Last year they tabled a similar request without voting on it. Commissioner Valerie Covey, who opposed the motion, said she had heard “overwhelmingly” from her constituents that they did not want the Confederate statue removed and they did not want the plaque. “I am willing to work with others trying to find a solution for this issue,” she said.
Commissioner Larry Madsen, who voted against submitting an application, said the plaque might be too small to provide enough information “to get us where we need to be.”
He said he liked an idea proposed before the vote by a Sun City resident to put a statue focusing on the Civil Rights era on the courthouse lawn. Commissioner Cynthia Long, who also cast a vote against the plaque application, said she objected to the request being submitted to commissioners right before the deadline set by the Texas Historical Commission.
Terry Cook was the only commissioner who voted in favor of submitting the application to the state commission. She said the state agency, if it approved the plaque, would write the language for it, she said, and commissioners would not have to accept it if they didn’t like it.
Shelby Little, the commander of the Williamson County Grays, a chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy, told commissioners before they voted that the plaque would only cause community divisiveness.
After the vote, he said he was not opposed to erecting a memorial to civil rights.
The Rev. Chuck Freeman, pastor of Free Souls Church in Round Rock and a member of Undoing Racism Round Rock, said he would support the proposal for another statue but said it would not erase that the Confederate statue “is still a statement of white supremacy and white superiority.”
The Rev. Chuck Freeman (left) of the group called Undoing Racism Round Rock, chats with Shelby Little, commander of the Williamson County Grays, Camp 502, outside the courthouse after the Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday.