Last week’s first meeting of the Historic Monument Committee came with different ideas and the beginning of a vision for a potential compromise.
Talk of adding a Union Monument to serve as a compromise for the Confederate monument already on the grounds of the former Hopkins County Courthouse dominated the opening meeting’s agenda.
Committee members include: Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr., African-American Coalition of Hopkins County President Bill McReynolds, Magistrate Hannah Myers, local NAACP President Tim Whitsell, Mitch Ferguson with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Rev. Robert Cottoner, Pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Madisonville, Tommy Omer with the American Legion Post 6 in Madisonville and Cliff Nance with the Madisonville Historic District.
Nance opened the dialogue regarding the compromise.
“The Confederate monument has gotten quite a bit of discussion,” said Nance. “In conversations with people, one of the discussions was that the monument needed to come down.”
Nance said everyone’s opinion would be different about the memorial.
“Bill McReynolds is a friend, and we had several discussions along with other people, and the idea came about that when the monument was originally erected there was supposed to be one for the Union soldiers as well.”
Nance said honoring the fallen soldiers of all walks of life could be better.
“The real story is that the Union did win,” he said. “It is not debatable. We are not arguing who won the war. My personal opinion is that some of the Confederate things that are out there tells a little bit of a different narrative. I feel like it is important to have a Union statue that celebrates African-Americans who were involved, women that were involved and the whole aspect of what went into that.”
Ferguson presented some research he had done in preparation for the meeting.
“I found out that there are about 80 African-American soldiers from Hopkins County that have never been recognized for their services in the Civil War,” he said.
Ferguson said he had also been in contact with an artist from Alabama that could design the new monument.
“I would love to see this monument go up,” he said. “It should already be there. I want to do whatever I can do to help put it up.”
McReynolds said he would like to see African-American Union soldiers recognized.
“In order to create a balance, I would like to see a statue of an African-American soldier … if a white Union soldier were to be up there, some would say we are back at square one. It wouldn’t really serve the African-American community in a way that we would like to see it represented.”
Myers spoke about the design of the monument saying that she wanted both of the monuments to resemble each other.
Another idea suggested for the monument was listing the names of the 80 African-American soldiers that Ferguson presented.
As the meeting concluded, goals for the next meeting were set with more research on finding information regarding African-American soldiers from Hopkins County and finding different artists who could complete the monument and their pricing.
Myers added that she would begin researching grants that could be used to help fund the statue’s completion.
Whitfield said the ultimate decision made would likely not make everybody happy and that no action could be taken in the committee meeting, adding that the Fiscal Court would have to vote on what the committee brought forward.
“We know that no compromise will make everybody happy,” said Whitifeld following the committee meeting. “I think this will show that the people of Hopkins County can work together and get this done. The plan is that there will not be county money that is put into this. We will use either grants or private donations, and we do know we have private citizens who would contribute to the statue. I think tonight went pretty smooth.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 3.