Halifax County voters will have the chance to let Halifax County Board of Supervisors know if they think supervisors should relocate the Confederate monument that stands in front of the historic courthouse square in Halifax.
Supervisors unanimously decided Monday evening to place a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot that will read, “Shall Halifax County relocate the Confederate monument from the County courthouse grounds?”
Their unanimous decision followed a motion from ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco who suggested having a referendum in order to get a “good representation” of how county residents feel. ED-1 supervisor Ricky Short seconded that motion.
Vice chairman and ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts then made a motion approving a resolution authorizing the county to move forward with the resolution. ED-4 supervisor Ronnie Duffey seconded that motion.
The county attorney, county administrator and others involved are now tasked with filing a petition in Halifax County Circuit Court to get the referendum on the November ballot.
Supervisors also noted that the conclusion of the referendum is solely an advisory decision, and county supervisors may still vote either way for removing the memorial or leaving it where it sits.
Prior to making their final decision supervisors noted there are still many unknowns such as costs associated with taking down the monument, costs associated with relocating it and where to relocate it.
Some individuals, including those with the local organization One Community, have suggested moving the monument to the Halifax County-South Boston Museum of Fine Arts and History in South Boston.
But, Francisco said he was told it would not fit in the museum.
Museum staff clarified after the meeting saying that it’s not the statue of the soldier that will not fit in the museum but the monument in its entirety.
Francisco also noted they had not researched and found firm prices on what it would take of taxpayer money to take it down, haul it and to erect it elsewhere. But, he did say initial research had pointed to anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000.
“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” said Francisco, and majority of supervisors agreed those factors needs to be discussed before a final decision can be made.
County administrator Scott Simpson anticipates staff and supervisors will research rough estimates for costs over the next several months.
He also outlined the options for supervisors Monday evening.
Virginia code 15.2-1812 “Memorials for war veterans” gives localities the ability to “remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover any such monument or memorial on the locality’s public property.”
The statute includes a monument or memorial from any war or conflict, including the Civil War, and action may be taken regardless of when it was erected.
Supervisors could have chosen to move forward with a public hearing, which requires a published notice of intent in a local newspaper 30 days prior to the hearing.
A public hearing will still have to be held following the results of the referendum.
Following the public hearing, supervisors may vote on the future of the statue.
If they were to choose to “remove, relocate, contextualize or cover” the monument, before the action could be fulfilled, supervisors must first, for a period of 30 days, offer the monument for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield.
Supervisors have sole authority to determine the final disposition of the monument.
Supervisor Claiborne initially wanted to move forward with the public hearing and hold another special called meeting.
He made a motion to advertise for the public hearing, which was seconded by ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon, saying the monument “needs to be disposed.” But Claiborne later withdrew his motion.
This was after Claiborne and Brandon both gave insight to the history of slaves and the Civil War. Claiborne also said, “We need to become united as a country. If we’re to move forward, we have to put behind the past.”
Supervisor Short also shared information from historian Doug Powell saying the Confederate monument is a memorial for Halifax County soldiers who fought in the Civil War, both Black and white.
“It’s about who fought from Halifax County,” said Short.
But Claiborne noted that the Civil War was before the emancipation proclamation, and said Black individuals were forced to fight. He said if they didn’t, they were “expendable property” often shot in the back.
Chairman Hubert Pannell also offered some insight as a Black man, born in 1952, who went on to serve in the military for more than 25 years.
He said when he was in the military, he didn’t know his fellow soldiers as Black and white.
“We just knew each other as a solider,” said Pannell. “I’m taken back that I come here and we have to deal with something like this…”
But, he did note, along with other supervisors that whichever decision was made, the monument would be handled with “dignity and respect.”
“Let us do what’s right for Halifax County, and you know what’s right,” Pannell concluded.