State legislature votes to protect monuments

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 28, 2017

Local native among supporters lobbying

An Andalusia area native was among the most vocal lobbyists working in Montgomery yesterday for passage of a bill barring changes to Confederate or other long-standing monuments.

The House passed the measure 72 to 29 after three hours of heated debate. The bill now goes back to the Senate, where a similar version was approved in March. The amendments included a small but significant change to the definition of monuments that could provide cities an opening to try to remove Confederate memorials.

Mike Williams of Montgomery, formerly of Andalusia, was at the statehouse Thursday lobbying for the bill. Williams is part of the Southern Historical Protection Group, and past adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Curtis Thomasson, a local historian and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Williams led much of the effort in Montgomery.

“All who are involved with SCV are supporting that effort,” Thomasson said.

The bill was first filed the year after Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the removal of Confederate flags from the state Capital. Bentley’s action followed similar ones in other states in 2015 after a white supremacist killed nine people, all black, at Emanuel Zion AME Church in Charleston, S.C. The killer, Dylann Roof, had posed with the Confederate flag in photos.

Legislative leaders removed the flag from the Old House and Senate Chambers at the same time.

This week’s vote came at an emotional time for preservationists, after New Orleans began dismantling Confederate monuments this past weekend.

In the Alabama House, Black Democrats argued that monuments to the Confederacy, founded to preserve slavery, celebrated a human horror.

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, recalled being beaten as a child for drinking out of the wrong drinking fountain and having a gun pointed in her face.

Sen. Gerald Allen, who sponsored the bill, said he wanted to preserve the “good, bad and ugly of history.”

In Alabama, there are monuments to the Confederacy or to those soldiers who died in the war in Montgomery, Tuskegee, Millbrook, Fort Payne, Greenville, Ozark, Lowndesboro, Troy, and Camden. Elsewhere, there are monuments to individuals who served in the war.

Thomasson said the local SCV has discussed erecting a monument in Covington County, but has not identified an appropriate location.

Both Rep. Mike Jones and Sen. Jimmy Holley supported the bill.