Rebel monument loses its place in Reidsville

Town says it doesn't own damaged statue

The Reidsville ReviewAugust 11, 2011 

— After much debate, the city of Reidsville has determined that the century-old Reidsville Confederate Monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which has agreed to not return the statue to its perch on Scales Street.

The monument has stood at its location on the traffic circle at the intersection of Scales Street and West Morehead Street since 1910.

The statue sustained heavy damage May 23 when a vehicle driven by Mark Anthony Vincent, 40, of Greensboro, drove over the curb of the traffic circle and plowed into the base of the statue. The impact toppled the statue of the soldier from its post, shattered it in several pieces and embedded its head into the truck Vincent was driving.

Vincent reported to police that he had fallen asleep. Security cameras that might otherwise have captured the accident were turned off that night because of a lightning strike that had hit City Hall shortly before the incident.

No decision has been made regarding what to do with the base or the statue while the UDC completes arrangements with its insurance company, city officials said.

Mayor James Festerman said the council is researching alternatives for the intersection.

"We anticipate putting in the roundabout something that will be a source of identification for the city's downtown area for future generations," Festerman said in the news release. "We will be asking for community input to erect a landmark for all of our citizens and visitors to enjoy."

The monument has been a source of much controversy since the May accident. Many conspiracy theories floated around the city as to what actually happened to the statue the night of the accident. Others said they were overwhelmed by the memories of past racism.

City officials have said they have determined that the United Daughters of the Confederacy does own the statue; however, the city owns the land where the statue stands.

The city had assumed the statue was a gift, but a records search showed it belongs to the historical group. City Attorney William F. McLeod Jr. could not find any evidence the city owned the monument, according to a news release.

City Council minutes dated April 5, 1910, reflected a request by the UDC to place the soldier in the intersection but gave no indication that the monument was a donation to the city. On Sept. 24, 1924, according to City Council minutes, city officials requested instructions from the UDC when planning to replace the fence around the monument with a wall.

In a recent letter to City Manager Michael Pearce, state UDC President Aileen Ezell said, "While we much prefer the monument to remain in the location it has occupied for the past 100 years, we do not wish to be a factor in any unpleasantness that may occur if the statue is allowed to remain in its present location."

The release said the city is talking with Ezell about a new location for the statue, though Ezell is still working with Travelers Insurance on replacement costs. The statue cannot be repaired, according to curators hired by Ezell.

Alternate locations that have been discussed include the Confederate area of the city-owned Greenview Cemetery or in a museum. Pearce has offered the services of city employees to help move the base of the statue, which remains where it stood after the accident, to prevent any further damage.

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