Hamilton County Commission's resolution to remove Confederate bust fails

Hamilton County Commission's resolution to remove Confederate bust fails

October 4th, 2017 by Paul Leach in Breaking News

Joe Graham, left, listens as Warren Mackey speaks.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

This is a developing story.

Gallery: Marchers seek removal of Confederate statue

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UPDATE: The resolution to remove the the bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart from the courthouse lawn failed. 


ORIGINAL STORY: The Hamilton County Commission decides today if it wants to ask the state's permission to remove the bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart from the courthouse lawn.

Last week, Commissioner Greg Beck introduced legislation to do this, a move he described as placing the courthouse on "neutral ground."

The Daughters of the Confederacy erected the memorial on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn nearly 100 years ago. He served as a commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Stewart's likeness depicts him in Confederate military uniform and the bust pedestal plaque reads "C.S.A [Confederate States of America] 1861-1865."

"This resolution speaks to the sentiments of the general public across the cultural divide, and transcends even district lines and party lines," Beck has said. "It presents this commission with a moment of greatness."

On Sunday, the Chattanooga Chapter of the NAACP, who has called for the bust's removal, marched to the courthouse and held a prayer vigil, drawing about half dozen counter protesters.

"What bothers me about removing the bust, at least removing it right now, [is] I'm afraid we're letting our emotions react to what's going on in America around us," Commissioner Joe Graham said at last week's meeting, asking for an "ongoing" conversation.

Commissioner Tim Boyd has said no other memorial should replace the Stewart bust if it is removed, indicating he would seek to amend Beck's resolution to include such a stipulation.

"I think the grounds of the county commission should be grounds solely dedicated to the running of government of Hamilton County and not be a place of continued discussion of who is memorialized and who is not memorialized on the grounds of Hamilton County," Boyd said.

Commissioner Greg Martin urged his colleagues not to use a 21st-century lens when judging 18th- and 19th-century Americans.

"I think it's ironic that we're looking at removing someone who was honored for his ability to help memorialize those who had lost and suffered so much, and here in our community and preserving of monuments," Martin said.

Beck warned the commission about painting "a good sign on a bad uniform."

The 2016 Tennessee Heritage Protection Act takes away local governments' authority to dispose of monuments or change park and street names. If the Hamilton County Commission wants to remove the Stewart bust, it still has to obtain permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission to do so.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.