Wil­liamson County votes no to slav­ery plaque, but statue pos­si­ble

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Claire Os­born cos­born@states­man.com

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.”

ANDY SHARP / FOR THE AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

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