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City Council approves move of Confederate monument ‘Fame’ in Salisbury, declares it public safety hazard

Updated: Jun. 17, 2020 at 9:48 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - City Council has approved two resolutions to move the “Fame” Confederate monument, a statue that has stood in downtown Salisbury for more than 100 years.

On Tuesday night, Salisbury City Council approved a resolution to declare the statue a public safety hazard, giving the city the power to remove the statue. In a second resolution, council voted to give The United Daughters of Confederacy (UDC) 10 days to sign an agreement and move the statue out of median in downtown Salisbury to the Old Lutheran Cemetery.

Both resolutions were approved unanimously after hours of discussion and public comments.

WBTV previously reported that the “Fame" monument would be moved to the Old Lutheran Cemetery. Established in 1768 by John Lewis Beard, the cemetery is located at 515 N. Lee Street. 175 tombstones for Confederate soldiers were installed at the cemetery in 1996.

The original tentative agreement on relocation was apparently reached on June 11 and involved representatives of several groups, including the City of Salisbury.

“The City of #SalisburyNC can confirm tentative discussions between Salisbury City Council and the United Daughters of the Confederacy local chapter to permanently relocate the Fame statue. At this time, no formal agreement has been signed or notarized,” the city of Salisbury tweeted Friday.

Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black told WBTV that is a positive thing for the area.

“This is a step toward the healing for the citizens of Salisbury,” Black said. “It’s a symbol of times we don’t want to go back to, a time we don’t want to relive.”

Black said he was hopeful that the tentative agreement would be approved by council.

The statue has been the site of recent incidents of vandalism and civil unrest. On Sunday, May 31, a man fired two shots in the air after confronting protesters near the base of the statue. That man, Jeffrey Long, was charged with inciting a riot, among other charges.

The next night there was another demonstration near Fame. Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd. One man in the crowd threw a rock through a window of The Salisbury Post/United Way building. Harvey Lee McCorkle, III, was charged with inciting a riot.

In at least two other recent incidents, paint has been thrown on the statue.

Dedicated in 1909 and created by sculptor Frederick W. Ruckstuhl, Fame is a bronze piece that depicts the muse Fame holding a dying Confederate soldier with one arm, and a laurel wreath held high in the other hand.

The pink granite base features inscriptions that say:

-IN MEMORY OF / ROWAN’S / CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS / THAT THEIR HEROIC DEEDS / SUBLIME SELF-SACRIFICE / AND UNDYING DEVOTION / TO DUTY AND COUNTRY / MAY NEVER BE FORGOTTEN / 1861-1865

-THEY GAVE THEIR / LIVES AND THEIR FORTUNES FOR / CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY / AND STATE SOVEREIGNTY / IN OBEDIENCE TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE / FATHERS WHO FRAMED / THE CONSTITUTION / AND ESTABLISHED THE / UNION OF THESE STATES

-SOLDIERS OF THE / CONFEDERACY / FAME HAS GIVEN YOU / AN IMPERISHABLE CROWN / HISTORY WILL RECORD / YOUR DARING VALOR / NOBLE SUFFERINGS AND / MATCHLESS ACHIEVEMENTS / TO THE HONOR AND / GLORY OF OUR LAND

-DEO VINDICE / R.I.P.

There is not yet a timeline on when and how Fame would be relocated.

On Wednesday, Karina Johnson stood across the street from the statue On Innes Street with a Black Lives Matter poster and raising a fist up high as cars went by.

“They did the right thing,” Johnson said.“My opinion is they ought to just move it already.”

Even with a signed agreement, though, the move won’t be immediate. A place has to be set up in the cemetery for the statue and getting the proper equipment in to move the monument will take some time, said one official.

Those who want the statue preserved told WBTV News that if it has to be moved, they want it protected in the new location.

“If they move it, it will be vandalized,” said one man who drove by the cemetery.

The walls are short, there is no gate. There’s only a sign saying “No trespassing after dark.”

Jerry Allman-Thomas walked among the confederate graves at the cemetery on Wednesday and he too believes the statue could become a target there too.

“I’m just afraid it will be destroyed,” Allman-Thomas said.

In any case, city leaders have decided that “Fame” will be moved from where it sits now.

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