Remove the Confederate Monument From the Caldwell County Courthouse
By Cody Kimbell
Special to the LPR
My name is Cody Kimbell. I am a resident of Lockhart, TX, a small business owner here, and a member of the Lockhart Downtown Business Association. First of all, I want to thank Judge Haden and all of the other commissioners for allowing me the time to speak. I raised my concerns over the phone with Commissioner Roland last week and within an hour I was on the phone with the Judge. My concerns were addressed quickly and I was treated with respect. It’s just one of the many reasons I am proud to be a resident of Lockhart and Caldwell County.
I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that our country is going through a painful time right now. No matter what you believe, folks are emotional and people are hurting. In light of the current circumstances, I felt called to speak up to try and make a positive difference in my community. I am seeking a peaceful solution to an issue that has good people and valid concerns on both sides.
After speaking to Judge Haden last week, I decided to draft a public form in which members of our community could submit responses and comments regarding what they think is the best way to handle the Confederate monument that stands outside our courthouse. After carefully evaluating concerns from those who want it removed and those who want it to stay, I believe the best course of action is to relocate the monument to the cemetery at City Park. This is a suggestion I received from both sides. I also believe it is a more appropriate place and a solution that protects the historical significance of the monument while addressing serious concerns about its hidden meaning and current placement.
I would like to read some of the statements in favor of moving the monument, but first I would like to address the concerns of those who are opposed . Their responses were unanimous: They believe the monument has historical significance. Some say they don’t want it destroyed but are okay with moving it. Some don’t want it touched at all. I was told many times, “You cannot erase history by moving the monument.” My reply would be, “Yes. You are correct!” I do not think moving the monument erases its history and that’s exactly why I don’t see the problem in moving it. That being said, I want to be very clear here — I am absolutely NOT advocating before the court that this monument be destroyed. That is why I think relocating it is a great solution. I do think the history of the statue is important, and I think we should go through some of its history to understand its true meaning .
According to the inscription on our monument, it was erected in 1923 by the Daughters of the Confederacy. There is also a poem, dedication and a Confederate flag on either side, but other than that there is not much on the statue. I have heard many suggest that the statue can be used as a teaching tool to remind us about where we came from, but its meaning and purpose is muddled by the fact that there is no historical information or context on the statue. So, I did my
own research on the Daughters of the Confederacy to understand where they stood at the time the statue was erected.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was established in 1894 and created monuments all around the country during the post-Reconstruction Era. They were a very influential and highly effective fundraising group. They even had a say in the design of most of the major Confederate monuments, sometimes even pushing aside concerns from the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other important groups of the time. In her book Dixie’s Daughters, Dr. Karen L. Cox says, “Historians have neglected one very significant explanation for increase in monument building between the 1890s and World War I, the rise of the UDC.” As the name suggests, the group was founded by the wives and daughters of Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Part of what they were doing was arranging for the proper burials for the soldiers. Now, no matter what you think about the Confederacy’s motivations, we cannot criticize the families of these fallen soldiers for wanting to bury their dead. After all, the Civil War was a “total war,” meaning every able-bodied man had to serve. Some chose to serve, and some were forced to serve. People of all colors fought on the side of the Confederacy, and some of them did not even agree with the Confederacy’s motivations for secession . It is very easy, however, to figure out why the South officially seceeded because they said many times exactly why. In his cornerstone speech, Vice President Alexander H. Stephens declared that disagreements over the enslavement of African Americans were the immediate causes of secession, saying,
“The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error.”
He goes on,
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal
condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. “
This goes directly against the Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers said, “all men are created equal.” If you want to know why Texas specifically seceded, state leaders lay it out in an additional document known as the Declaration of Causes, saying,
“Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery — the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association.”
It goes on,
“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they wererightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”
We can see very clearly that the preservation of slavery was the main cause because the Confederacy says so in every speech, letter, declaration, editorial and just about any medium available to them. Of course there were other grievances and issues, but the wording here is clear that slavery was the core issue. I do understand why someone from the South could think otherwise. After all, if you went to public school in Texas, you were taught that the Civil War was mostly fought over states’ rights. This has been an ongoing debate, and the Texas State
Board of Education did not change the wording on the official curriculum until 2018. That means this last year, the 2019-2020 school year, was the first time any public school students in Texas were taught that preserving slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. My textbook said it was states’ rights, and my family has been in Texas a long time. so I know that is what they were taught too. That doesn’t mean that every individual soldier was fighting for that, but it certainly was the official view of the Confederacy and one that completely aligns with the beliefs of the Daughters of the Confederacy, who put our statue where it stands today. Some say that our monument is purely about honoring the lives of the fallen soldiers, but there is much more to it than that. When we seek to understand the UDC’s true intentions behind our monument it is very important that we analyze their own words regarding the Confederacy and white supremacy. We know the purposes of their monuments and statues because they spell it out for us.
In 1902, Texas representative Adelia Dunavant said to a UDC convention, “What lies before us is not only loyalty to memories, but loyalty to principles. Not only the building of monuments, but the vindication of the men of the Confederacy.” This aligns with the motto of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “Deo vindice” meaning “God will vindicate us.” They wanted to prove their cause to be right and clear themselves of blame or suspicion.
In 1908, the UDC created the office of historian general and in 1910 elected Mildred Lewis Rutherford from Georgia to a five year term. She described slavery as “one of the greatest missionary and educational endeavors the world has ever known.” She said elsewhere that “negro suffrage was a crime against the white people of the South.” In 1915, after her five year term, she was replaced by Laura Martin Rose just after the release of her 1914 book The Ku Klux Klan: Or Invisible Empire. This book was adopted as a textbook in many places in the South and was written coincidentally one year before the KKK was reestablished in 1915. In her opening dedication she writes,
“This book is dedicated by the author to the Youth of the Southland, hoping that perusal of its pages will inspire them with respect and admiration for the Confederate Soldiers, who were the real Ku Klux, and whose deeds of courage and valor, have never been surpassed, and rarely equalled, in the annals of history.”
She goes on in Chapter 1,
“These conditions… at the close of the War between the States called into existence the Ku Klux Klan, and this organization proved the solution of a problem that confronted the South during the dark days of Reconstruction, and relieved a situation fraught with more terrors than the war.”
A few paragraphs laters she says,
“Under such conditions there was only one recourse left, to organize a powerful Secret Order to accomplish what could not be done in the open. So the Confederate soldiers,
as members of the Ku Klux Klan, and fully equal to any emergency, came again to the rescue, and delivered the South from a bondage worse than death.”
Again, this is a very prominent member of the UDC, right before her election to historian general, right before the KKK comes back, and just a few years before our own monument was erected. The UDC’s views at the time completely align with those of the KKK. They wanted to accomplish in secret “what could not be done in the open.” Furthermore, the UDC continued to defend their views on slavery until the 1960s.
When we look at our monument in light of this information, it should be clear that the UDC’s intentions went way beyond honoring the fallen soldiers. The UDC wanted to turn southern children into “living monuments” by feeding them false information that glorified all of the things wrong with the Confederacy. They wanted to distort the truth with propaganda — which includes monuments just like ours. The UDC did not have to spell out on our monument their ideas of white supremacy because they had the KKK enforcing the principles behind it. We know the KKK was rampant in this area because of clippings from our own Post Register. The UDC used the lives of all those fallen soldiers as a fake excuse to promote racist ideas in public. For the folks in town worried about erasing history, that is exactly what the Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to do. The UDC relentlessly lobbied legislatures for public school textbooks that presented a pro-Confederate version of regional history and successfully blacklisted those that they deemed unjust to the institutions of the South. They used the monuments to conceal our history and prevent us from actually knowing it.
While our monument may not be a symbol of white supremacy to some, it is very easy to see why it would be considered racist to others. To have such a controversial symbol in front of a courthouse is completely inappropriate. How can anyone who has been a victim of white supremacy expect to receive a free trial here with that outside?
Now, I would like to move on and present a few of the statements I received in support of removing the monument.
I believe it to be a monument to remember/glorify white supremacy and the expansion of slavery. Being an African American resident and business owner with small children I find it offensive and degrading.
I am creole, which is black and french, and I attended Lockhart from the time I entered 6th grade to the time that I graduated in 2014. I hope that by removing the statue, Lockhart will start to become a more friendly place to people who look like me in the future. When I started attending Lockhart in 2007, I received comments about my messy hair, my classmates would stick pens, pencils, balled up pieces of paper, and post-it note pieces in my hair to see if they would stay put. When the Obama administration was in office, I would hear my classmates repeat insults they had heard from other places from the Obama’s looking like monkey’s to the rundown, ugly
appearance of Michelle Obama and her hair. I understand that politics are always up to a healthy debate but I heard my classmates/ my peers comment on the appearance of people far more than is appropriate for a town that I felt was my home too. I felt that because of the color of my skin, the way my hair reacted to the heat, the way my name was pronounced, that I wasn’t good enough for the town I called home. I would like to see the statue brought down, not because I am discounting the devastation of families being torn apart but because I believe that we can do better at saying all people are welcome to make a home in Lockhart, TX. A town where we show up for our community, a town that bands together during the hard times, and a town that shows up for the good times. A town where everyone is welcome in our schools, at the Dickens and Chisholm trail parade, and for the Forth of July fireworks. I am a person of color, a proud Black Lockhart Class of 14′ grad and I want other families that look like mine to also feel welcome to partake in all Lockhart has to offer.
I have been around here for 74 years when there was still black and white fountains in this town. The only thing for me it represents is SLAVERY WHICH IS STILL GOING ON TODAY.
The monument only adds fuel to the fire of racism and division that already exists in the Lockhart community . It saddens me to see that I was born and raised here among so many racist people . I’m tired of hearing and seeing people be openly racist on social media, out in public, and etc. This monument continues to give these racists citizens some kind of sense of control, righteousness, and empowerment to continue being prejudice, discriminatory, and racist. African Americans have fought hard and been through so much to become free and equal citizens of the United States of America. We’ve went from Slavery, to Segregation, to now systematical racism, we “the people” are tired of being treated as less than human. I’ve seen animals get treated better than some of us colored folks. Seeing this confederate monument is like a slap in the face for me and my ancestors and others that fought so hard to end racism in the previous years. A change in this town against racism and for equality must start somewhere. Let’s start the movement by tearing down a monument that reminds people of how racist the south used to be.
This is not about erasing history. This is not about forgetting what happened. This is about doing right by people in our own community who see this statue as a “slap in the face.” To many in our town, this statue itself is intimidating. I even had replies from folks who would not let me present their statements to the court because they feared retaliation. I don’t want anyone who lives here to feel unsafe in their own town. When tourists come here to see our downtown square, or eat BBQ, and to patronize our businesses, I don’t want them to think that Lockhart tolerates hate. Yet, I see what people who live here are saying online and I have had plenty of customers come into my store and make negative remarks about the monument too. In terms of our local economy, the monument only serves to hurt us, and we have nothing to lose by moving it to the cemetery. Those who want to honor fallen soldiers who have fought for our country can
still honor their descendants on the square at the Veterans Memorial just across the lawn. If we act on this , we look like a county that cares about all of its citizens, and if the word gets out, we will draw in even more business here. If we leave it in place, we will miss our window of opportunity to make a good compromise. My fear is that someone will get upset, vandalize the monument, ruin its historical significance and sew more dissonance here. I don’t want that and I know no one else in Caldwell County does either. It’s not good for our image, it’s not good for business, and it’s not good for our relationships with each other.
In the face of a divided nation, I say we come together as a community and find a peaceful solution that represents us all. Let’s take a stand for something good and set an example for all the other communities who are struggling with the same issue. Plenty of others have done it before and many more are doing it right now. UT moved several statues, including the statue of Jefferson Davis, which now resides in the Briscoe Center for American History. Texas State University put their Jefferson Davis monument on private land donated to the UDC in Hunter, just a few miles away. Dallas removed their statue of Texas Ranger Jay Banks, who famously resisted integration, from the Love Field Airport.
In regards to Confederate monuments, Robert E. Lee himself wrote, “My conviction is that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.” He thought it was wiser to “not to keep open the sores of war.” We do not have to destroy it, but we can certainly move it. I believe it is clear — this can be done, and now is the time to act.
Cody James Kimbell