Questions Remain As Putnam County Forms Confederate Statue Relocation Committee

Sep 9, 2020

The Putnam County Commission formed its 11-person citizen’s committee during its Tuesday afternoon workshop. 

The committee is tasked with forming recommendations on where to move the controversial Confederate statue in front of the Putnam County Courthouse.   

Before each commissioner announced their nominations, Commission Chair Terry Turner appeared to question if a committee was necessary, despite voting in favor of it during August’s meeting.

“When I voted to do this, I voted for it because I was trying to unify the community,” Turner told the commission. “And I think what I ended up doing was I drove a wedge between them. The biggest wedge I've ever seen in my time in this business.”

In the August meeting, Commissioner Jeff Rawls suggested the decision on the monument be put to a vote by the public, but Turner was against the idea. Rawls was the only commissioner to vote against the formation of a committee.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Turner made it clear that he could still change his mind on moving the statue, even if solid recommendations were made.

“Even then, I want to reserve the right to change my mind and not move it at all,” Turner said. “So that's just how I feel.”

Among the 11 people nominated to be on the committee were people who argued on both sides of the issue regarding the statue’s relocation during commissioner public hearings. 

Turner also made a point to say that no public money will be spent on the statue’s relocation, and that it will have to be privately funded. 

“It's not gonna be ‘write a check for a few hundred dollars’ and the statue is going to show up at some other location,” Turner said. “That’s just not going to happen. There's going to be some serious money that's going to have to be raised.” 

If private money doesn’t cover the statue’s relocation, Turner and other board members have said they won’t move it “one inch.” 

Tevel Adams is a local activist who was part of the effort leading to a conversation about the statue. His mother, LaToya Robinson, was selected to be a part of the committee. 

“I'm glad that they chose a diverse committee,” Adams said. 

But Adams disagrees with the notion that the statue’s removal shouldn’t come out of the county’s pocketbook. 

“If he wants private funds, then there needs to be a private committee,” Adams said of Turner’s comments. “With it being a community based committee, then community dollars need to be put into the relocation of the statue.”

The statue was privately funded when it was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1924. 

Adams said if recommendations are made for it’s relocation, funding is found, and the commission still votes against it, then the divisiveness will continue.

“If Terry Turner wants to change his mind, then we'll change our strategy and we’ll continue to protest and will continue to affect them economically,” Adams said.

In the August workshop, Turner told the commission that everytime a protest or rally was held in the area, it cost Putnam County $20,000 to $30,000, which he said wasn’t sustainable. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.