Chatham County

Judge halts Chatham County plan to remove Confederate statue from Pittsboro courthouse

A judge on Monday ordered Chatham County to temporarily halt its plan to remove a Confederate statue from the grounds of the historic courthouse in Pittsboro.

The Winnie Davis Chapter of the N.C. United Daughters of the Confederacy and Chatham County residents Barbara Pugh, Gene Brooks and Thomas Clegg obtained the court order just days before a deadline to move the statue was set to expire.

Judge Charles M. “Casey” Viser also ordered the UDC to post a $6,000 bond by noon Friday to cover the 10-day restraining order, according to the Chatham News and Record.

The Chatham County commissioners voted 4-1 in August to give the UDC until Oct. 1 to come up with a plan for the statue and to set a Nov. 1 deadline for the county to take action if the UDC didn’t move it.

The N.C. Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans announced the judge’s order in a news release Monday evening. The group also pledged its support for keeping the statue at the Chatham County Courthouse and Historical Museum, where it was erected in 1907.

The county attorney has said the statue belongs to the UDC, which was allowed to erect it under an agreement that can be revoked at any time. The UDC contends the statue was a gift and belongs to the county, making it a protected, public monument under state law.

“While it has been totally and unjustly ignored in places like Durham, Chapel Hill, and Winston-Salem, state law clearly prevents the removal of objects of remembrance on public property,” the NC SCV said in a statement. “We hope that this glimmer of hope in Chatham County will be the beginning of the end for lawlessness and mob rule in our state and that the Chatham County Board of Commissioners will be forced to abide by the same laws that it expects its citizens to obey.”

Pittsboro protests

Statue supporters, joined by a larger number of neo-Confederate and white supremacist groups from outside the county and state, have protested in downtown Pittsboro every Saturday since the decision. Confederate flags were raised just outside of town and in front of Horton Middle School, a formerly all-black school named for local slave and poet George Moses Horton.

The rallies also attracted supporters of the statue’s removal, along with anti-racist protesters from neighboring counties. Although events were mostly peaceful, several protesters on both sides have been arrested, including for weapons possession and fighting.

The UDC filed its complaint requesting the temporary restraining order on Oct. 23, the News and Record reported, alleging the removal of the statue would cause the UDC and residents to be “irreparably harmed.”

Brooks, Clegg and Pugh, president of the UDC’s Winnie Davis Chapter, said they are “direct ‘ancestors’ of ‘a member of the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War’,” the newspaper reported. They are asking the judge to determine whether the statue belongs to the county and whether the decision to remove the statue from its current location is legal.

Viser, a visiting Mecklenburg County judge, could hear arguments for a preliminary injunction Nov. 8 in Chatham County Superior Court.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.