Pedestal of Confederate statue becomes makeshift memorial

Published 4:32 pm Monday, June 22, 2020

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The sun rose on a new day in Farmville the morning of Juneteenth to find the Confederate soldier absent from atop the monument at the intersection of High and Randolph streets. After almost 120 years, he had been hastily relieved of his duty.

After unanimously voting to remove the statue during a 7 p.m. Thursday meeting, Farmville’s Town Council had the statue removed by a crane and on a trailer headed to storage by 8:15 p.m. In a time when racial reconciliation is sweeping across the country, the council said safety was a concern in its decision. Several Confederate statues have been removed by ropes, chains and hammers including one in Portsmouth Wednesday, June 10 that seriously injured a protestor.

The site of the statue was a busy place Friday morning as many people slowly drove past looking at the empty pedestal. Others walked around the pedestal taking pictures of the monument that is sharply dividing residents who believe the statue should be preserved for history’s sake and others who celebrate that another relic of the Civil War has been relegated to the dustbin of history.

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“I think it was long overdue. We were actually sad we couldn’t come and watch it (the removal) with our son,” Mary Tackett said as she and her husband Jared walked near the pedestal of the statue Friday morning. The couple both work at Longwood University. Jared, who is from eastern Kentucky, said he was not surprised to see a Confederate statue in a small town like Farmville, but Mary, originally from Winchester, said it was a little surprising to see it so close to the university.

Not everyone was pleased with the quick action taken by the town. Local historian Bob Flippen brought flowers to the pedestal. He kneeled down and said a few words while placing the flowers before expressing an obviously emotional opinion about the statue.

“I just want us to live in peace,” Flippen said. “They are welcome to have their idols, their monuments. They are welcome to that. But we can’t have ours? How has this (the statue) transformed into being suddenly hate. I had never heard that Confederate monuments were erected solely to intimidate black people until the Obama administration. That’s when that all started.”

Flippen said he feels like Virginia died June 4 when Gov. Ralph Northam announced the state was taking down the statue of General Robert E. Lee in Richmond.

“On June 4 I am no longer proud to be a Virginian and on June 18, 2020, I no longer feel I can proudly say I am from Farmville,” Flippen said.

Flippen said the quick removal of the statue was not a good move for the town council. He called the decision “cowardly” and said the removal was obviously preplanned and premeditated.

“Apparently they just don’t want to be re-elected,” Flippen said.

The statue removal was the subject of conversations around the statue as passersby discussed how the statue was removed and the fact the public had no opportunity for input before the decision was made.

“I think that the big backlash is going to be that they didn’t handle it in a democratic method,” former Farmville Herald Publisher Steve Wall said after pulling up to the intersection and talking to two Longwood students about the issue. “It was public property. It belonged to the town. It belonged to the townspeople.”

Jamal Allen, an upcoming senior at Longwood University from Madison Heights, said taking the statue away was the right thing to do.

“It’s definitely a piece of history…. but I think it’s just an eyesore honestly,” he said.

Tyler Roebuck, a rising junior at Longwood from Powhatan said it was nice to not have to look at the statue every day.

“It’s a good thing it’s gone,” he said. “We’ve already heard plenty from people who said they have had to look at it out their window every day. It was kind of upsetting.”

Roebuck said the statues should be placed in a museum where people can go look at them if they want.

Kendrick Sadler was mowing around the Longwood administration building Friday morning as part of the university’s gardening and landscape department. He said he thought there were many more deserving people to place atop the statue back when it was erected in 1900.

“I figured it was just a matter of time,” he said.

French Cook was pushing his daughter, 19-month-old Dakota, past the pedestal in a stroller and pointed out to her the statue had been taken away.

“My dad told me ghost stories about that statue,” the native of Farmville said. “He said he heard that at night that Confederate statue dude would get down and walk this town at night.”

Cook said he would like to see the statue put in a museum.

“I don’t guess it will change anything,” he said. “It’s just a statue, right?”