Reporter Notebook: Tensions run high around ‘Fame’ statue

Artist throws bucket of water at journalist after confederate monument defaced

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - I grew up in Salisbury and was used to seeing the Confederate monument named Fame. First put into place in 1909, it’s always been a part of my life and it didn’t occur to me until later in life that not everyone saw the statue the same way that I did.

The statue, which depicts a dead soldier with a CSA belt buckle, in the arms of what has been described as an angel or a muse, is a beautiful piece of art, but in the last few years, its beauty has not kept it from being divisive.

On Wednesday, I saw that demonstrated in an ugly way.

The statue was vandalized on Wednesday morning. What appeared to be yellow paint was splashed on the statue, the base, even the street. It’s the second time that it’s been vandalized in the same way in the last seven months.

I’m a news reporter, and it’s my job to report on all kinds of news, even the things that make people uncomfortable.

On Wednesday morning, I was shooting video as a local artist named Clyde was cleaning the statue with soap, water, rags, and brushes. He did the same thing the first time the statue was vandalized.

I’ve known Clyde for most of my life. He’s a very talented artist, an antique buyer and seller, a florist, a journalist for the local newspaper, and on some occasions, a real character.

I wasn’t the only one shooting video on Wednesday morning as Clyde cleaned the base of the statue. There was also a black photojournalist from another news station. He was about five feet to my left.

Nobody was talking.

Clyde had just walked back to get a bucket full of water. When he came back to the statue, he threw the water directly on the other photojournalist. He said “Oh, I’m sorry," then turned to walk away. He turned back and asked if I had gotten that on camera.

When asked if he tossed the water on the photojournalist intentionally, Clyde replied “I don’t know.”

I asked the photojournalist what had just happened. He made it clear that he believed that he was targeted because he was black and the motive was racial.

I made a post on Facebook about the incident and it generated a lot of response. Many people accused me of “stirring things up,” and various other biases. I simply posted about what I had seen, and the video backs it up.

Later in the day I talked to Clyde again. He told me that I “had been fooled.” He said the other photojournalist was yelling at him, “baiting” him to try to get him to talk. I told him that I didn’t hear anything like that. Clyde said it happened before I got there.

Throwing a bucket of water on a man who was doing his job isn’t right under any circumstance. I don’t know why Clyde threw the water on the other photojournalist. His motivation is known only to him and to God. I do know what I saw, and no one can dispute that.

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