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Special CoverageA Community DividedCitizens voice concerns over conflict

Citizens voice concerns over conflict

This section begins with a collection of correspondence to various Calloway County government officials as well as remarks made before the Calloway County Fiscal Court in 2020, which the Sentinel obtained from County Judge-Executive Kenny Imes’ office.

Letter from J.N. Williams UDC Chapter President Ann Hiter dated June 3, 2020

Calloway County Judge Executive Kenneth Imes,

In regards to the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue on the court square of Murray, Kentucky, I as president of the J.N. Williams Chapter of United Daughters of Confederacy, would like to set the record straight. The historic monument of General Robert E. Lee on the court square stands as a reminder of our ancestors who fought bravely for four years in the War Against Northern Aggression. Western Kentucky was very much pro-Confederacy. The J.N. Williams Chapter purchased this stature [sic] and it has been a part of our landscape for decades. Robert E. Lee was the most widely respected Civil War commander. I am very much opposed to the removal of this statue. I am saddened that some people find anything connected with the Confederacy offensive. We are all Americans. Let us honor our past.

Sincerely,

Ann Hiter

J.N. Williams Chapter President, Murray, KY

Letter from Ja Morant dated June 11, 2020

To the Honorable Kenneth C. Imes,

My name is Ja Morant. I was a student athlete at Murray State University (2017-2019), member of the Racers OVC Conference Championship basketball team, and the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. I want to introduce myself to you and share my concern about a symbol of white supremacy, racism and hate on display in the community. I am writing to ask that you immediately remove the Confederate statue in the court square of downtown Murray.

I am extremely proud of my ties to Murray State. I am honored to have spent two years at the university. My college experience positioned me for success and truly helped me achieve my dreams. Murray felt like a second home from the minute I stepped on campus and became a part of the Murray State community. It is full of people, families and students from all different backgrounds. As a young Black man, I cannot stress enough how disturbing and oppressive it is to know the city still honors a Confederate war general defending white supremacy and hatred.

Given recent events and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s necessary to act now. We can’t change  the culture of racism unless we change the celebration of racism. Please help us take a stand and remove this symbol of hatred and oppression.

Sincerely,

Ja Morant

Letter from Pella Corporation President/CEO Timothy Yaggi dated June 15, 2020

Dear Judge Imes:

As the leader of a large private employer in Calloway County, I am writing to join with others in asking you to remove the Confederate monument with the statue of Robert E. Lee from the county courthouse grounds. This monument is commemorating and venerating individuals who took up arms to perpetuate the institution of slavery.

With over a thousand team members located in our Murray facility, we are proud of the role we’ve played in serving and enriching this community. Values are an important part of our organization, and one of those that is core to us is our dedication to diversity and equality. This request is in keeping with those values.

Respectfully Submitted,

W. Timothy Yaggi

President and CEO of Pella Corporation

Blake Hughes’ prepared remarks to the Calloway County Fiscal Court on June 17, 2020

My name is Blake Hughes and I’m a resident of Murray Kentucky.
 
The Armenian Genocide Museum defines cultural genocide as “acts and measures undertaken to destroy nations’ or ethnic groups’ culture through spiritual, national, and cultural destruction.”
 
I’m here today to oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on the court square of Murray on the grounds that removal of cultural monuments Is cultural genocide and people who seek the destruction of our culture should neither be given the time of day nor the opportunity to do so. Further, no one who has spent only a small fraction of their lives in our community should dictate the ways in which we remember our ancestors’ history or how we remember historical figures important to us. There is no situation in which I would ever move to another place and then demand that that place conform to my wishes or modify their historical remembrances—and even to imagine such a scenario is frankly absurd.
 
This is not about racism, or it might have come up some time in the over 100 years since the statue was erected. The timing is not just late, it’s far too convenient, coinciding with the illegal and despicable destruction, burning, and looting of businesses, government buildings, and historical artifacts across this country, as well with as the countless acts of senseless violence against innocent bystanders and law enforcement.
 
This also isn’t about the civil war, as most participants on both sides of the war would be considered by modern-day society’s standards as unacceptable and certainly not politically correct. Rather, this is about gaining power and control over a people and using that to oppress them—the very thing which many people calling for the removal of this statue and those like it claim to be against. Furthermore, this is about Marxists intent on destroying our history and our way of life doing so in the false name of “equality” and “progress” because, truly, they hate us, our nation, and our God. Many thought it would never get to small town Murray, but here it is. To be fair, it has been creeping in for a while, but when it comes to removing or uprooting artifacts relating to the ancestors of people who still live in this community, that’s where I draw the line—and where you should as well.
 
This won’t stop with confederate monuments though, as even Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus—neither of whom served in the Confederacy—have fallen victim. Cultural genocide includes the destruction of a peoples’ cultural artifacts such as books, artworks, and structures, and that’s exactly what’s happening today across the US, and what is being proposed here in Murray. But make no mistake, this is not just an attack on the Robert E. Lee statue, this is an attack on you and on me, and it won’t stop before our country is wholly unrecognizable to us, and that’s why we must fight. Thank you.
 
Editor’s note: This is not a transcript of what Hughes said during the June 17, 2020 Calloway County Fiscal Court meeting; rather, it is the speech he wrote prior to that meeting.

Letter from Murray Main Street Program President Joe Darnall dated June 18, 2020

Dear Judge-Executive Imes,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Murray Main Street Program, I am writing this letter to support the relocation of the statue from the public grounds of the court house in downtown Murray. As part of the National Main Street Program, we join our fellow Main Street programs across the country, as well as the Murray City Council, for peace, justice, accountability and fair treatment of all people. We are committed to standing against racism and discrimination in all forms. The humanity and dignity of every person must be honored and respected in our public spaces.

The Murray Main Street Program has worked hard to support the downtown businesses and community in light of recent disasters and now a global pandemic. Helping support our small businesses during these times has been essential. Now more than ever, it is important for our community to rediscover the joy of patronizing our small businesses and restaurants in a safe and welcoming space, a commercial district where people of every race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation feel comfortable living, working and shopping.

We must recognize that for many community members, specifically those of color, the statue is a reminder of a racial injustice where safety has never been a given. Many of us take for granted the feeling of safety while walking or jogging in the park or through a neighborhood, shopping in a store or simply living in our small town. The community must come together to create safe and inclusive public places where everyone can enjoy the quality of life they deserve. We want our downtown, our community and our businesses to thrive in such an environment. We need your help to do this.

As the Board of Directors, we are ready and willing to work with you, the Kentucky Heritage Council and the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission to find a new location for the statue where the history can be seen in its correct context and the community can move forward in peace and equitable harmony.

Please, for the sake of this downtown and our community, quickly address this issue and work toward moving the statue to a more suitable location.

Sincerely,

Joe Darnall

President

Letter from Fort Heiman Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans charter member Thomas Y. Hiter forwarded June 18, 2020

Gentlemen:

During the War for Southern Independence, and for half a Century afterwards, it was popular in the north to characterize that War as a “rebellion” against the lawful government. Folks in the south never fully accepted that name, and having lost the War but made our point, eventually the nation arrived at an equitable conclusion: that the sections would agree to differ on the name of the thing and to coexist peacefully. Then, late in the next Century, the Twentieth, the political left and certain elements of racist extremists, white and black, began to typify the War as a racist crusade, fought over slavery. It was never that, either, as clearly shown by a multitude of documents that are still available, today, but those same people, media, academe and political, continue to spout the error, today, for their own purposes. It is popular, in the midst of all the highly charged political rhetoric being heard today, to hear and read about attempts to remove monuments erected a Century and more ago to Confederate veterans as being offensive to certain groups of people today. Now, if some people want to be offended, they most certainly wilt [sic] be offended. Nothing can be done to stop that. But our monuments were not erected to the defense of slavery any more than our ancestors fought to maintain slavery. Consider this excerpt from the history of the McCain’s Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Maury County, Tennessee.

“This cemetery holds the earthly remains of Capt. John J. Kelleher of Company H, Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, CSA. Kelleher had started his Confederate military service enlisting in April, 1861, from Calloway County as first corporal in Company F, First Kentucky Infantry, CSA, rising to the rank of second sergeant by the time his unit mustered out of service in May, 1862. Kelleher came back to Calloway County and soon joined Col. William W. Faulkner’s First Kentucky Partisan Rangers. After this unit became the Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry CSA, Kelleher was elected captain of the newly formed Company H. Capt. Kelleher on at least one occasion was commanding officer in the field of the Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, and on several occasions when an active leader was needed he was called upon to command detachments of troops for special missions. At the battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, on July 14, 1864, Capt. Kelleher was commanding the advance skirmishing group of some 150 Confederates from the Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry in the advance of Forrest’s Kentucky Brigade reaching the closest to the Federal entrenchments, but with a horrific fifty percent casualty rate. Capt. Kelleher, who was in command of a portion of the rear guard protecting the Confederate army under Gen. Hood in its retreat from Middle Tennessee, had been skirmishing off and on with the Federals who were following the retreating Confederates for days when on December 23, 1864, he was killed by direct cannon fire. After the war, his comrades constantly referred to Kelleher as a dashing and courageous Irishman. His old, barely-legible headstone reads “In memory of Capt. KELLEHER Co. H 12 Ky. Buford’s Brigade Forrest’s Cay. Killed Dec. 23, 1864 on Hood’s retreat. Residence Calloway County. Ky.”

That is who the monument is set to recognize, Captain Kelleher and the thousand and more other Confederate soldiers from Murray and Calloway County. Did Kelleher fight to maintain slavery? It doesn’t say so. Did anyone else? If so, where is the evidence? There are said to have been 336 slaveowners in Calloway County in 1860. Was Kelleher one of them? Indeed, how many of the men who fought for the south – the men who are honored by that monument – owned slaves? We of the SCV know that there were even, among the Confederate soldiers honored by that monument, black soldiers, some of whom were slaves themselves. The monument honors them, too, equally with their white comrades. Race and slavery have no place in this debate, and the opinions of people who were born elsewhere, raised elsewhere, went to school elsewhere, and only recently even moved here to work, while valuable, mean little compared to generations of our own people who remember and know who we are and what our history really is.

Please leave the UDC monument where it was placed in 1917-over a hundred years ago-in honor of the Confederate heroes of Murray and Calloway County.

Rev. Thomas Y. Hiter, Ph.D.

Charter member of Fort Heiman Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Murray, Kentucky

Editor’s note: The foregoing letter was forwarded to the fiscal court by email from John Young on June 18, 2020.

Letter from Mayor Bob Rogers dated June 26, 2020

Dear Deputy Judge Winchester,

Enclosed please find a copy of a resolution passed by the Murray City council at its meeting last night. This resolution requests that the Calloway County Fiscal Court take whatever action is necessary to remove the Confederate statue from the courthouse lawn.

The Council realizes that the statue is on property owned by the County, but it does sit in the middle of our town and the negative publicity and controversy is identifying our community as being a racist community, and we all know that isn’t true by any means.

We hope you’ll receive this resolution in the spirit that it is being sent, that we think it would be in the best interest of our community if the statue is removed and relocated.

Thank you,

Bob Rogers

Mayor, City of Murray

Editor’s note: The resolution enclosed with the above letter can be found in the “Resource Library” section.

Email chain forwarded by Melissa Johnson on July 6, 2020

Editor’s note: What follows is an email chain forwarded to Judge-Executive Kenny Imes and Deputy Judge-Executive Gina Winchester on July 6, 2020, by Melissa Johnson. The initial email in the chain is from Johnson to then Murray State University Football Coach Dean Hood on June 23, 2020, requesting that he forward it to his assistant coach, Sherman Neal.

Good day Mr. Hood, I am respectfully asking you to forward this letter To Mr. Neal since he is not listed as a member of your staff on the website. Thank you

Mr. Neal

Thank you for your service, it is an honor and a privilege to have that protection.

In regards to the statue, I am not really writing to you directly about it, it is simply an inanimate object, and the fact it gets so much attention is incredibly strange. Normally I would not even voice an opinion but after reading an interview with you that shared some of the words from your letter I felt compelled to do so.

I was blessed to be born and raised in this fine community. I want to share with you first a story told by my grandmother.

Her grandfathers both served in the civil war, one confederate, one union. One of the men received notice that he had a grandchild on the way, he sent word to the other gentleman, they met across a fence, both with guns in hand, one gentlemen said to the other, well, we have our first grandchild on the way, I guess its best we stop this fighting and go home to our families. I find it to be a wonderful story of love. They were not wealthy men that had a stake in the fight for slavery, just poor farmers trying to protect their families, farms and land.

My grandparents were the most loving, giving christian people I have ever had the honor of knowing, my grandmother was a member of the UDC, not because she hated anyone, because she certainly did not!! But because she loved her grandfather, she loved her community, its history and loved genealogy. She spent hours upon hours working on documents, searching things tied to the families in our community and preserving that history. Her and my grandfather were well respected, they went above and beyond to do for others, our christmas dinners were filled with not only extended family but neighbors who didnt have families, friends, anyone who wished to gather. And yes at times POC. I had an uncle that was a missionary that would play his guitar and teach us christmas songs in other languages. It was beautiful and wonderful, we were rich beyond measure not because of gifts but because of the love and giving nature we experienced. So when you deem the UDC ladies animals that would associate with KKK it is heart breaking and horrific. I can not imagine saying anything mean or ugly to another person especially based on their race or heritage.

My community is loving and beautiful, its all around you but first you have to open your eyes and see it, OPEN THEM WIDE!!! I cant even imagine coming to this beautiful, loving, gracious community and seeing nothing but a statue. I understand your life experiences have been different than me, for that I am sorry that this can instill so much anger. But I can promise you if you will be open to it, this community will give the love each person deserves.

I send an open invitation to you and your family to attend church with my family anytime, Antioch Church of Christ, 1261 Antioch Church Road, Farmington Ky 42040, My husband is a Farmington native, and we love our small church family.

Have a blessed day,

Melissa

***

Good afternoon. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

The United States chose not include a right to slavery or language subjecting group of people to involuntary servitude when they drafted the US Constitution in 1787. While the 3/5 clause was dubious and made claims of “liberty for all illegimtate [sic]” (I acknowledge women and other minorites were treated as 2nd class citizens or worse as well) — the drafters clearly constructed that document to allow for the legal elimination of slavery at a later date.

Unlike the United States of America, the confederacy chose to resort to violence, rather than available legal remedies, to launch an insurgency. Maintaining the right to enslave persons was the central tenet of the confederate clause. Article IV, Section 3, of the the confederate constitution ratified on March 11, 1861 states:

(3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several States; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.

See: httns://avalon.law.vale.edu/19th century/csa csa.asp

As you can see, one of your grandfathers fought to for a nation who chose not to specifically protect the right to own negro slaves in it’s foundational document, while another one fought for a non-state actor whom chose to launch a violent insurrection with the specific intent of protecting and expanding slavery. The state of Kentucky chose to remain in the Union. The Purchase area did have many confederate sympathizers, however they chose not to secede from the state in order to join the confederacy when they held the Mayfield Convention on the matter in May 1861. This means that one of your grandfathers willingly chose to commit treason against the United States and was willing to potentially kill his own family member (whom he met at the fence).

While I cannot verify the character of your grandmother, I can say with certainty that she joined an organization whose auxiliary purpose was promoting the cause of the Ku Klux Klan. See the attached pictures of a children’s book authored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy published with the intent of promoting the clan and subjecting black people to second-class citizen status.

I also attached a copy of the report I submitted to Judge Imes and members of the Calloway County Fiscal Court to provide some additional context to the single page letter I submitted on June 1.

I did, and still do, think very highly of this community and many of the leaders I have had a chance to meet over the past month. With limited exceptions, I have been treated very well and engaged in adult conversations (like this one). I am not angry. I am seeking to erase history. I am only asking that decision-makers acknowledge the context of what they support in the form of that inanimate object — if we truly examine the merits of the cause, then I think we must remove it from public property immediately as many other cities have done.

Understanding that we have different experiences is a good beginning. As a country, we need to determine why my experience as an American differs from yours and what perpetuates division. In my opinion, reverence of a person/cause dedicated to enslavement of my ancestors is a significant part of the problem.

Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or additional comments. Happy Independence Day.

Respectfully,

(Sherman Neal)

***

Thank you for your reply, Yes I understand the history, but after reading some of your publications I needed to tell you my history, and about MY community. I did not say slavery was ok, it was horrific, what I said is that my family has been here for many, many generations and I have first hand knowledge of their behavior and love for another. And also as I said before these men were poor farmers fighting for their homes, families, and land. You or I neither one can say what we might do if our family was in harms way, and our ability to feed them was under attack. Because in fact I do know they were not slave owners. I am really over the statue it is the full on war against our community and integrity that is now at stake. Your examples are not Calloway County, Kentucky publications, and I realize that in the late 1800s, early 1900s I am sure they were bad people connected with the UDC, but the beautiful women connected to the one in Calloway County in recent years are in now way connected to any ridiculous organization as the KKK. Again, they enjoy exploring history, preserving artifacts and spending time with one another. I am thankful my grandmother is not alive, I told her at one time the very name of their organization could bring harm to them and they needed to be cautious. You will not now or ever convince me that we are bad people. I know there are always mean and bad in every community but I also know here they are few and far between.

I am in shock that you were able to convince the Murray city council that they live in an evil place, as portrayed in your publications. Intrigued by the concern for pick-up trucks on the street I performed my own experiment, This past Saturday morning I left my house ar 6:30 am, drove to lynn Grove to do some wildlife photography, I arrived back home around 8:45, I saw 27 pick-up trucks, 2 cars, 2 jeeps, and 3 SUVs. I am suspect of them following you while you run. As far as people following you in the stores, who knows, but I doubt it. As far as Murray police dept. not being respectful, the whole community saw them swiftly apprehend the Paducah man, and the Murray man during the riot, all while F*A# 12 was being chanted. To take this a step further, the man welding the pepper spray was a friend of my husband and I, he is very intelligent, has published books, BUT a few years ago he began to struggle with mental illness, in fact he lost his daughter who he did have sole custody of until that time. He alienated all his friends, and his bizarre behaviour continued to escalate, and now my husband is heart broken and wishes he had pushed him to get help. Much like the school shootings and other horrific events manifested by the mentally ill. If you want a social issue to reform that is it!! The mental health system is far too broken.

Onto, anyone being afraid of being killed in this community

I can remember off the top of my head 3 murders in this community in my life time. Only one was african-american [sic], his name was Chico, he was a well-known drug dealer, I do not know that his murder was ever resolved. And only a couple of years later his sister was killed in a horrific car accident, so much misery for one family!

At first, I felt so bad for you, but at the same time was broken hearted at what seemed to be your feeling about my community, then after the last publication I read I am coming to realize this is more about you being published, and gaining notoriety for yourself, not reform for Murray-Calloway county.

Below, I attached a picture of our real community, the love, the lives that we celebrate, not hate, not ugliness. This is my granddaughter and my niece.

You have a good day, sir and I pray you find peace.

Melissa

Letter from Stephanie Rea dated July 13, 2020

Dear Judge-Executive Kenny Imes and Members of the Fiscal Court:

I am a citizen of Calloway County and a mother of two, and I support the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee that sits on our court square. This statue, like all statues that memorialize confederate generals, honors a man who fought to keep black people enslaved. How can we expect our community to be a safe place for all when we honor those who fought for the enslavement of other humans? We cannot.

Robert E. Lee was a traitor. He stood for tearing this nation apart on the basis that states should have the right for its white citizens to own black ones. We now put people in jail in this county for treating animals the way blacks were treated in time that Robert E. Lee was fighting to continue such inhumane actions. Why would we honor him and his ideals by allowing this statue to remain? We degrade ourselves by its mere presence.

I have lived in the south for most of my life. and am familiar with the argument that Robert E. Lee and the Confederate flag are symbols of Southern culture. They are not. They are a symbol of terrorism and hate crimes that were once deemed legal. Actual symbols of Southern culture are collard greens, cornbread, hospitality, respect (yes, sir and no ma’am), magnolia trees, as well as country, folk, gospel, jazz, bluegrass, and blues music.

If our county and country are to move forward socially, morally, spiritually, economically, we must honor the great men and women who have come in peace to bring people together, and we must take action to remove any statue that memorializes anyone who committed acts of terror against any human beings anywhere. I beg you, as soon as possible, to vote in favor of this statue’s swift and long overdue removal.

Respectfully,

Stephanie Rea

Professor of Music

Murray State University

Department of Music

Kevin Elliott’s prepared remarks for the July 15, 2020 Calloway County Fiscal Court meeting

Thank you Judge Imes and members of the Fiscal Court for hearing me today. My name is Kevin Elliott. I live in Murray and am a professor of political science at Murray State*.

I come today to urge the Fiscal Court to pass a resolution expressing its will to relocate the Confederate monument.

I’ve circulated a document that I wrote that lays out the history of this monument and the organization that put it up. But what I want to do today is lay out three reasons that anyone could accept for relocating the monument.

First, this monument brings out the worst in our community. Peaceful protestors have been assaulted, with pepper spray, and threatened with deadly violence, having a gun pointed at them. African American members of our community, simply standing on a corner, have been publicly called the most vile and disgusting term in the American vocabulary. How could this happen in the so-called Friendliest Town in America? The monument continues to be a source of deep division in the community, and the longer it stands in the court square, the worse it’s going to get.

Second, because of the tensions the monument has sparked, it’s under special police protection, and this has required paying a lot of overtime to officers guarding the monument. We’re talking about thousands of taxpayer dollars going to protect the monument at time when public budgets are strained by coronavirus. But the only reason this protection is needed is because the monument stands in the court square.

Why is the location such a big deal you might ask? Well, the courthouse stands for the power of the people of Calloway County. Of all the people. It is the seat of their power. But to many members of our community, and, I would argue, to the people who erected it, the monument stands for the idea that the power of the government belongs exclusively to the white members of the community.

Relocating the monument means rejecting that idea in favor of the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: that we the people create the government, and it belongs to all of us, equally.

Finally, those who are genuinely concerned to preserve the monument must realize that it will never again be safe in the court square. The recent protests that have swept the country suggest that protestors may take action themselves against what they see as symbols of white supremacy. Police protection is providing a degree of expensive security today, but this cannot possibly be continued indefinitely. Relocation is the only long term way to preserve the monument.

So, how do we do it? Members of our coalition have investigated many of the most challenging issues and we are happy to make ourselves available to members of the Court or the Judge Executive to consult on them.

One concern is that the monument is listed as a military heritage object and so is subject to protection against destruction or removal by state law. We have been in contact with the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission which administers this protection, and they have made clear that they’re prepared to work with the local government. What’s needed is a plan for relocation. And we have a plan that involves relocating the monument to Bowman Cemetery here in Murray in which several Confederate veterans are buried. We have addressed issues of ownership and other practicalities in consultation with arts and cultural preservation groups. But the bottom line is that the military heritage protection does not prevent relocation for the purposes of preservation.

Another concern is that the UDC’s Murray chapter owns the monument and may oppose relocation. Yet because the monument stands on county property, it can only remain there, ultimately, if the county wants it to. The Fiscal Court granted the UDC permission to occupy its property back in 1917. But this permission can simply be rescinded, and the county can work with the UDC to preserve it in another location, like Bowman.

What’s needed now is a resolution from the Fiscal Court to set the process of relocation in motion and that directs the Judge Executive to take whatever actions are necessary to enact this relocation, including working in partnership with any or all interested parties, organizations, and government agencies. I urge you to pass such a resolution at the earliest possible date. Thank you.

Editor’s note: This is not a transcript of what Elliott said during the July 15, 2020 Calloway County Fiscal Court meeting; rather, it is the speech he wrote prior to that meeting.

*Dr. Kevin Elliott is now a lecturer in ethics, politics and economics at Yale University.

Transcript from the October 2020 Calloway County Fiscal Court meeting

Begin – 50:06

Judge-Executive Kenny Imes: Mr. Neal did you wish to address the court?

Sherman Neal: (inaudible from audience) … about the statue…

Imes: Pardon? You had requested to address the court; would you like to? I would ask you to observe it to five minutes if you will please.

Neal: I’ll take out my phone and put it up here.

Imes: You’re good.

Neal: Can you hear me? Good morning. I’m Sherman Neal II. I appreciate you giving me the five minutes. I know we’re not on the agenda today. I think it’s important we address some of the stuff that is going on with the statue right now. So, since the last time I personally got to address the court in July I was informed by the County Attorney that in order to move forward on the statue we had to 1) have novel evidence or new evidence of change and then 2) have, try to broker some type of deal in the negotiating with the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Where we are at right now with that, with new evidence. So, I think it’s importantly clear by what the objectives are with the people that support the removal of (inaudible). 1) Its removal is not obstructing, it’s not violating/causing harm to people or personal property 2) transparency of accountability so what I think we are talking about here, we are talking about property ownership. We are still working out some of the nuances but since July 17 when we last talked, Owensboro, KY/Daviess County just clarified ownership of their statue at this point so we understand is the court owns the property that the statue sits on and can take action regardless of what the UDC say based on the license and privilege that has been granted to them revoking that now due to what Owensboro has decided there is a potential conflict of opinion on property ownership. Even given to the fact that the statue itself has been marked as public property. (PHONE RINGING inaudible). So what we got out of that is, Calloway County puts out a document to the national parks service in 1997 that says public ownership. Daviess County put out a document submitted in 1997 to the national parks that says public ownership.

Daviess County decides to take control of their monument, vote to remove the monument and appoint a commission that does not (inaudible) resuscitate the association UDC in order to remove the monument in six months. Where we are at now is we have chosen not, I may be wrong, this is why I ask for public comment, but we have chosen to not take ownership of the property as a county as a public piece of property. Which is a conflict of law, resolution ?, conflict of ownership and the 2) Polling a vote on the merits of the morality of why it’s there which is what Daviess County has spoken of, which is what Madisonville is going through right now, which we had not entertained, and I know it’s an adjacent state but Cape Girardeau (inaudible) across the river. So, these are some examples of change that happened since July and others (inaudible).

And so, what we’re, what I, what on behalf of an organization of people that are looking forward of getting noticed by the UDC as stakeholders 1) in the statue and 2) in the community to come forth and have discussions and hopefully can have those facilitated by the county of an appointed a board which doesn’t necessarily have to be incorporated by myself and give that to the people who have been here longer than I have, and they have insight and input and can come forth and have a solution. In the same fashion that is going on in Owensboro and is going on in adjacent places. At this point in time, I don’t have any reason to believe that the UDC is a hostile group or should oppose that. I just know that their an absentee party that not only since the 107 days that this has been going on but in the past three years, I can’t find any record of them in occasion. Now it’s costing real dollars and real time and it’s not going to be going away any time soon. I think it’s critical that we put them on public notice that we are moving forward regardless of your position. If you would like to assert some type of opinion, it’s now or never. And should they choose not to do that, that would indicate that they have either a) have abandoned that property orb) don’t find the current situation with the county important enough to come out and try to protect the community in the capacity that they say that they want to or (inaudible) social media , websites or official stance in regards to race relations.

That’s all I have at this time.

Imes: Thank you Mr. Neal.

Calloway County Attorney Bryan Ernstberger: Your Honor, I would like to…

Imes: Sure…

Ernstberger: I don’t have any questions but as I was quoted, I would like to speak quickly to clear that up with regard to the speaking qualifications that you mentioned at the outset. What I believe I stated was I don’t make the decision, that the agenda is set by the Judge/Executive and that he had determined that novel information stated that would be worthwhile for the court to hear, will be the standard. I think you had said something about maybe making that determination, but I wanted to make sure you knew that was the court standard, to not hear from the same person again on the same position.

The second thing was in regard to and this was also at the outset we said, I think you said or quoted me saying the only way forward was going to be with the UDC but I think I was quoting the Judge as saying that perhaps that would be the best and easiest way forward and then 3) with regard to you mentioning ownership of the statue, that’s been a highly contested issue both on the street and online and you and I had a conversation I believe it was last Thursday, with regard to ownership of the statue. I don’t believe the court has ever said and I feel confident that would be, would dictate what would happen with the statue. At least my position to the court, my opinion I believe the UDC does own the statue. Obviously, the court of Calloway County still owns the land that it sits on. And so, the court has the ability, and I don’t believe it’s ever said otherwise that it can if it wishes, it can move the statue. There may be some additional legal complications there, maybe some additional costs. In addition to just moving it, there may be some damages to the owner. But that. Doesn’t mean that it’s out of the court’s power. So, I think that at least some online have focused on the wrong issue. The statement that UDC owns the statue itself does not mean that the court does not have authority if it so wished to move the statue. So, I’d just like to clear up that common misconception.

Neal: I can’t, certainly cannot speak for online comments. I can speak for myself so when it comes to what (inaudible) that’s why I think it’s critical that we appoint a commission to, look at these hundreds of pieces of paper, I think it’s critical that we figure this out because I’m certainly not an expert as you, You are acting in the capacity as an attorney, and doing that as being forthright which I appreciate that you are acting in the capacity as an administrator for the county and I think there is, we have variety of minds that can come to a resolution on some of these key issues. And give the public information rather than go another hundred days, while, before people reach their own conclusions. And then end up getting frustrated. I think what we are asking for now from the court is them, specifically once we, in steps of, we know that the court has the power and we know that in the resolution that was put forth in July the court, you know, said that should the UDC, you know, want to move the statue, that seems to conflict with how we are delegating power to a group that supports, sympathizes with and upholds the confederacy. We are delegating power to a group that supports the Confederacy and allowing a neo-Confederate group that power over what we put on public land. We should retain that power. We choose, as the people, to put that on there, that is something we can discuss in a public forum and that’s fine. There’s other ways to address that if that’s what we uphold and want to keep. But we certainly cannot delegate that power to a non-stakeholder. And so, I think that a lot of the questions that we addressed today, we certainly won’t be able to fix unless we stay here all night but I’d rather do that than talk about in another hundred days myself. But we have the minds and (inaudible) and I know that just for the record I know the people that have reached out to me and I’m sure people have reached out to you in fears of violence and conflict and (inaudible) want no harm. We’ve gone a hundred days and nothing (knocks on wood) that bad has happened. We still are an example of how this can work. Nothing’s been graffitied. There’s been minor there’s been physical (inaudible), I shouldn’t pass it by, either minor or major but nothing (inaudible) like what’s going on in other places. We still have a window of opportunity to get this done. And these other counties, these other places adjacent to us, we could really work in coalition with, when you talk about the Jackson Purchase area. When you talk about what McCracken’s going through and you talk about what Daviess is going through and you’re talking about Hopkins is going through. Why are we different and how do we help them and show them the way we can connect and all come together and do something in a reasonable period of time.

Imes: Mr. Neal, thank you.

Ernstberger: Judge, can I retort one issue? Quickly.

Imes: Sure.

Ernstberger: Mr. Neal, So, I don’t want to get into a debate. We’re not. But you said the court had delegated through the resolution the authority to the UDC and as the drafter of the resolution I don’t see a reasonable way to interpret it that way. It does say that the UDC, should they choose to move it, contact the court, the court would assist. It also says, and again, I thought this was important language, that the statue, that the will of the court , was that the statue would stay as long as the UDC and the people of Calloway County willed it to be. Meaning, that if one of those no longer willed it to be then at that time perhaps it would not continue to stand. It doesn’t mean that if the UDC, and I don’t think that is any way a proper interpretation of that resolution that, if the UDC doesn’t want it moved, that it could then never be moved through any force whatsoever. But at some point, either, because it was written as ‘and’, if the UDC or the people of Calloway County no longer wish for it to stand, I believe the court expressed its will then at that point that it would not. So, again, I didn’t want to get into a debate. I just wanted to make sure that something wasn’t misinterpreted publicly.

Imes: Thank you, thank you Mr. Neal.

End – 1:04

Email from Vicki Kemp sent Oct. 16, 2020

Hello. My request to the Fiscal Court is on matters of public safety, specifically concerning recent news stories and personal accounts of citizens and visitors who are uneasy, and sometimes feel unsafe to walk around the streets of Murray.

We may draw a connection between the recent protests and marches for whatever issue (racial justice issues, Move the Monument campaign, etc.) and heightened feelings among our residents but, my question to the Fiscal Court would be whether or not public safety is being compromised? Are the reduced numbers at the Saturday Farmers Market out of fear of COVID or for fear of confrontation with protesters or concern over a perceived lack of protection from law enforcement? If I choose to join a picket line, which I have not done, do I have to fear an injury from a water hose or other types of harassment or verbal assaults? Are women in our community being silenced by threats of arrest and charges as perpetrators of crimes while ignored when they are victims of crimes?

What is the current level of public trust and confidence in our County Government, through the Fiscal Court? I think it may be lower than you know. Can you reach out to various citizens, and may I be one of them, to solicit our opinions, experiences, and concerns?

Again, thank you for your time, and the consideration of my request to come before the Fiscal Court.

Email from Robert G. Donnelly, Jr. sent Oct. 19, 2020

Dear Judge Imes and members of the Fiscal Court,

I write to you concerning the status of recent deliberations about the Calloway County Confederate Monument (hereafter ‘Murray Monument’ or simply ‘Monument’) and, specifically, the apparent omission in these deliberations of a detail that has, it seems, crucial bearing on the eventual disposition of the Monument. I am a mathematics faculty member at Murray State University and a 23-year resident of Murray. I was born in Bowling Green and my parents reside there, and all of my family roots are in South-Central and West Kentucky. The attached letter, sent by me in May 2019 and addressed to MSU’s Faculty Senate, offers more about my personal interest in this issue.

On July 15, 2020, the Calloway County Fiscal Court unanimously passed a resolution (RES-20-0715-C) to keep the Monument in place on the old courthouse grounds. The resolution concludes: “The Fiscal Court of Calloway County hereby resolves that the Confederate Monument dedicated to the remembrance of those Calloway Countians who fought in the Civil War shall remain standing upon the Northeast corner of the grounds of the Calloway County Courthouse for so long as the owners of that Monument and the citizens of Calloway County are so inclined.” A key justification of the resolution was stated within its text as follows:

“Whereas, inscribed upon the Monument are the words ‘In Loving Remembrance’ and ‘Confederate Soldiers’, dearly indicating that the Monument’s dedicated purpose was to honor those Calloway Countians who had fought, and many of whom had died, for the Confederacy during America’s Civil War” …

“Whereas, this Court believes that this Monument was erected for the purpose of honoring and memorializing the vast majority of Calloway Countians who fought in the Civil War, as evidenced by the words prominently inscribed thereon, rather than, as several have argued, for the purpose of promoting continued oppression” . . .

However, the inscription of the initials “CSA.’ on the statue’s pedestal seems not to have been a consideration in the Fiscal Court’s literalist rendering of the Monument’s message. Indeed, these scripted letters offer to the Monument viewer a genial reference, and perhaps even an homage, to a historical-political and national entity — the Confederate States of America — whose core principles, as articulated by its proponents upon its founding and sustained for the duration of its four-year existence, were grossly racist. For example, CSA Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens declared in his infamous “cornerstone” speech that “Our new government is founded . . . upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man”. Also, the CSAs Constitution made immutable “the right of property in negro slaves”, an explicitly race-centric provision rooted in the racist principle of “the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race,” as averred (for example) in Georgia’s secession declaration.

The Fiscal Court’s omission of any statement concerning how the “CSA.” inscription might affect the understood purpose and meaning of the Monument is not only glaring but also contrary to the egalitarian posture taken by the Court in its July 15 resolution.

Aspects of the larger regional and national discourse on such issues of interpretation might help clarify why this particular inscription is so problematic. The symbolic messages carried by Confederate monuments and other memorials (naming of schools, highways, and military bases; brandishing the Confederate battle flag; etc) have been and will continue to be subjects of debate across our nation. To some, the Confederate battle flag simply represents the colors carried by their forebears into the horrors of war, while to others it is a symbol of a dishonorable and racist cause, namely the right to own slaves. In a similar way, the likeness of Robert E. Lee upon many memorials, including the Murray Monument, is seen by some as an offensive veneration of a man who was a cruel slave-owner and traitor to his country and by others as an invocation of honorable and dutiful service to one’s homeland. A broad consensus understanding of these symbols is far from being realized, although there seems to be an invariable, and in my view altogether appropriate, trend towards a general disapprobation of Confederate symbols.

Members of the Fiscal Court rightly spoke to the complex nature of such symbols during their July 15, 2020 deliberations. In the spirit of those remarks, what follows is a possible assessment of the main particulars of the Murray Monument. We could note that Robert E. Lee was indeed a slave-owner and was stripped of his citizenship after the War, but he had a distinguished military career prior to the War and a post-war life that many (controversially) view as reconciliatory. Given this totality, his use as a memorial symbol is complicated. In a similar way, references to and images of the generic Confederate soldier, as appear on the Murray Monument and on monuments across the South, can be seen to represent, at least in part, those rank-and-file persons from non-slave-owning families within the Confederate region who enjoined the fight on the Confederate side not out of malice but out of a sense of duty or, perhaps, even resignation, although, of course, the ultimate cause of their fight was malign. That is to say, the generic Confederate soldier, held up as a memorial symbol, does not yield completely to singular interpretations such as unadulterated virtue or unregenerate racism; it is complicated.

The CSA is not thusly complicated. While the terms “Confederate” and “Confederacy” have meaning as generic referents to a region or to combatants or to a politics, the CSA was, and always will be, a specific historical-political and national entity. Its existence is constrained to a short and definite period of time (1861-1865). The CSA claimed status as a nation separate from the United States of America. And its founding principles, which were avowedly racist, are not in doubt and were never revoked. The racism some reasonably find inherent in the founding of the USA is different in the following vitally important senses: The USA has demonstrably worked to overcome the terrible legacy of slavery (and of systemic “apartheid” racism in the century after the Civil War), and indeed its founding documents articulated principles and mechanisms that made such reforms possible. All Americans can take pride in these accomplishments and can respect those who pursue, within our Constitutional framework, further such reforms.

It is conspicuous and noteworthy that the inscription of the initials of another nation – “CSA” – on the Murray Monument has (it seems) not been featured in recent local discussions, particularly in formal proceedings or in the press. Perhaps this is because the inscribed initials seem to blend into the Monument as mere decoration, or because in many images of the Monument the letters are not visible. I certainly overlooked them for many, many years. Moreover, these letters might carry no specific meaning even for viewers who happen to notice them. “CSA’ stands for many things now, such as Community Supported Agriculture, so these letters might be ignored as having some arcane historical meaning (the initials of the sculptor? a Calloway service association?).  However, our collective ignorance of their meaning – “Confederate States of America” – does not erase them or sanitize them or obviate our responsibility to address them in our discourses.

We should all agree that people have the right to recognize the honorable service of their ancestors, and so the existence of a memorial to soldiers is not, on its face, objectionable. Indeed, this seems to be the position of the Fiscal Court concerning the Murray Monument. But such monuments of remembrance, especially when displayed on public grounds with the imprimatur of the government (national, state, or local), should not explicitly and textually endorse historical-political entities, and especially other nations, whose core principles are inarguably racist. And, yet, the Murray Monument, with its flourishing invocations of the CSA, does exactly this.

In view of this (apparently) overlooked information, and in concert with requests from Sherman Neal II and many other Calloway Countians, I implore the Fiscal Court to rescind RES-20-0715-C altogether and affirm a commitment to relocate this problematic Monument away from public grounds.

Thank you for your time,

Robert G. Donnelly, Jr.

The memo attached to Donnelly’s email is provided below.

To: Faculty Senate

From: Rob Donnelly (former at-large Faculty Senator)

Re: Memorials

Date: May 7, 2019

We’re all likely familiar with the well-publicized and distressing conflicts in Charlottesville (home of the University of Virginia) over the possible removal of Confederate memorials. Some of us might be less familiar with a similar conflict on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’ve paid close attention to both conflicts, as I grew up in Virginia and did all of my graduate work at UNC-CH.

I spent six years on the UNC campus, and, like most students (but certainly not all), I was largely unaware of UNC’s Confederate memorial — a statue-on-a-pedestal known as “Silent Sam” — even though it occupied a privileged position in one of the most historic and beautiful quadrangles on campus. In recent months I’ve been reminded of this memorial, as protestors exercising their free-speech rights have at last been able to focus the UNC community’s attention on some painful aspects of the history of the Silent Sam monument. Some of those protestors (controversially) felled the Silent Sam statue in August 2018, and authorities subsequently removed it to an undisclosed location. In January 2019, the UNC Chancellor (controversially) ordered the removal of the statue’s remaining pedestal, which was emblazoned with text and images that, it seems fair to say, offered an overt statement of veneration for the cause of the Confederacy.

The conflicts about the memorials in Charlottesville and in Chapel Hill are ongoing, and it is clear that their citizens are divided as to the best response. Perhaps the memorials should be removed from public view altogether? Or perhaps they should be removed to a museum or other location where the memorials can be visited by the public but where further clarification about the historical nature of the Confederacy and Confederate memorials is also provided? Or perhaps they should stay in place but have their context expanded by the nearby placement of new memorials dedicated to slaves and their descendants, to abolitionists, and/or to Union soldiers and their leaders? Or perhaps nothing should be done at all?

Of course, those two cities and their esteemed universities are far to our east, across foothills and mountains and onto the Piedmont, and — unlike our region — situated centrally within some of the most contested territory of the Civil War. Even so, it is difficult to contemplate the conflicts there and not reflect, at least a little, upon our own circumstances here in West Kentucky. In particular, I’m thinking of one of the most notable landmarks of the City of Murray, the Confederate Monument placed on the courthouse square in 1917, at the crossroads of Kentucky highways 94 and 121, under the auspices of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

I’ve long been confused by the singular statement this memorial seems to make, which, evidently, is that our town is proud of its heritage of support for the Confederacy. And yet, the citizens of our Commonwealth were famously divided in their sympathies for the opposing causes of the Union and the Confederacy, and indeed Kentucky remained loyal to the Union for the duration of the war. Moreover, many from this part of the country volunteered to fight for the Union — for example, of the roughly 1000 Calloway County citizens who joined to fight in the Civil War, about 200 fought for the Union. Some 1500 slaves were held in bondage in Calloway County at the outset of the war; emancipation of those slaves who survived the war was not secured until after the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the deaths of 750,000 soldiers. Shouldn’t some of these latter facts also be prominently memorialized in Murray?

My beloved grandmother Mary Emily Hancock Wilson (1914-2015) was born and raised in Mayfield and had many relatives in the surrounding areas. One of her ancestors, whom she never knew, was a slave-holder near Hopkinsville and fought for the Confederacy during the war. Her father’s father, whom she knew very well, abhorred slavery and therefore left Mayfield to join the Union ranks; he marched with Sherman, was discharged in Chapel Hill NC at the end of the war, and died in 1928. (She and her brother Hunter Hancock were early and active members of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society.) This part of my family’s history is surely not unique, as many people from the Purchase area of Kentucky are likely descended both from proponents and opponents of the Union and Confederate causes. This complex history belies the singular prominence of the Confederate memorial ensconced on our courthouse square.

Even though the Confederate Monument in Murray is not part of our campus, our university is explicitly and publicly linked to it, as the university shares the name of our city and because, due to the relatively new payroll taxes levied on all MSU faculty, our faculty now have a much larger stake than ever in procuring revenue for the City of Murray, upon whose grounds this memorial resides. Given the moments of historical reconsideration that are happening not just in Virgin and North Carolina but in other places in our nation, perhaps this is an opportune time (6-28-20: I did not realize at the time that the monument is on County, not City, grounds) our faculty to help begin such a process of reconsideration here in our community.

So, I ask that the Faculty Senate consider initiating dialogue with the Murray City Council and other local constituencies (historical societies, advocacy groups, etc) to begin a constructive process of reconsideration of our city’s most conspicuous, and incongruous, memorial.

Regards,

Rob Donnelly

Letter from Sherman Neal II dated Dec. 6, 2020

TO: Judge Executive Kenny Imes

Magistrate Paul Rister

Magistrate Eddie Clyde Hale

Magistrate Larry Crutcher

Magistrate Don Cherry

Since June 1, 2020 local, state, and national media outlets have identified Calloway County, Kentucky as hostile towards black residents and women. Two events in particular have caused concern for all residents of Calloway County:

The decision not to relocate the Calloway County Confederate Monument featuring Robert E. Lee from its current location on the grounds      of the Calloway County Courthouse.

The indictment of Linda Arakelyan, alleging a violation of Ky. Rev. Stat. § 519.040 – filing a false report. This indictment was pursued by County Attorney Bryan Ernstberger despite publicly available video and commentary by City of Murray Police Department officials that calls into question the legal grounds and motivation of the Calloway County Attorney.

In addition to these events, the administrative procedures approved by the Calloway County Fiscal Court for informing constituents, providing an adequate public forum, and providing redress of grievances have fallen short of expectations of concerned residents. The following administrative actions by the Fiscal Court since June 1, 2020 cause concern:

– The restriction of public comment, and length of public comment, less than 24 hours prior to the June 17, 2020 meeting of the Calloway County Fiscal Court.

On June 8, 2020, the Calloway County Administrative Code/Ordinance Committee considered limitation of public comment by ‘special interest groups.”

On June 16, 2020, Deputy Judge Executive Gina Winchester recommended restricting comments by special interest groups to one speaker, for no longer than five minutes, with a bar on polling magistrates individually. The changes were drafted and adopted at the June 17, 2020 Fiscal Court meeting — minutes prior to scheduled comment by several constituents representing a special interest group who intended to discuss relocation of the Calloway County Confederate Monument. The new policy language was not distributed to the Calloway County leadership team” until five days after the hearing. The timing of consideration and adoption of the new policy remains conspicuous considering knowledge that adoption of the policy would curtail public comment on the Calloway County Confederate monument and hinder preparation of special interest groups in advance of the June 17, 2020, Calloway County Fiscal Court meeting.

– Judge Imes’ apparent confusion about the purpose and origins of the Ku Klux Klan. On June 26, 2020, Judge Executive Kenny Imes made the following comments to a WKMS reporter.

‘Everybody in my lifetime, I’ve never heard anybody speak well of the Ku Klux Klan, but if you’ll go back and read, I think it was [Nathan] Bedford Forrest that was one of the starters, that wasn’t what it was about.”

As an elected public official, expressions of confusion on the purpose and intent of the Ku Klux Klan, and its first Grand Wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest, have the potential to implicitly embolden supporters of modern-day white supremacist groups. Several documented incidents of citizens using racial epithets have been captured on video and bring disrepute to the reputation of the county for inclusiveness. Regardless of the Calloway County Fiscal Court stance on the Calloway County Confederate Monument, public clarification of intent behind the quote above is necessary to dispel implicit endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and its first Grand Wizard.

– Deference to the Daughters of the Confederacy and Reliance on Informal, Likely Flawed Polling. On July 15, 2020, the Calloway County Fiscal Court considered the petition to remove the Calloway County Confederate Monument. Magistrate Paul Rister presented results of a survey he clearly conducted prior to commencement of proceedings. The survey contained no demographic information concerning the age, race, ethnicity, or sex of participants. Because the survey was not conducted in accordance with standards of political or social polling many constituents have no method of verifying results for bias. Immediately following public comment, the Calloway County Attorney produced a resolution declaring:

“… [the monument] shall remain on the Northeast corner of the grounds of the Calloway County Courthouse for so long as the owners of that Monument and citizens of Calloway County are so inclined.”

Given the lack of information regarding polling methods, we have understandable concerns regarding the polling “results”. Much more concerning, however is County Attorney Bryan Ernstberger’s declaration of “ownership” for the United Daughters of the Confederacy without production of documentation or legal grounds, and apparent absence of bonafide consideration of public comment given production of the resolution.

The Calloway County Fiscal Court represents the interest of residents of this county. The Calloway County Attorney is charged with vetting administrative procedures and representing the Commonwealth of Kentucky in criminal actions among other duties as assigned. We represent a body of citizens concerned with the fact that actions of the Calloway County Fiscal Court and Calloway County Attorney appear dismissive towards underrepresented minorities under their jurisdiction.

– Failure to Consider or be Confronted with Racial Diversity or Diversity of Perspective. The Calloway County Fiscal Court is composed of five white men. The Calloway County Attorney is a white male. We are concerned that the lack of diversity and inclusion training for elected officials with decision-making authority combined with very clear suppression of public comment leads to poor outcomes for underrepresented minorities.

Based on the issues of concern stated above and the composition of the Calloway County Fiscal Court our organization formally requests addition to the December 2020 Fiscal Court agenda to discuss the following:

1. What, if any, actions have the Calloway County Fiscal Court, or the Calloway County Attorney taken to remain conscious of diversity and inclusion in the decision-making process?

2. Will the Calloway County Fiscal Court consider changing regular convening time to 06:00 pm or another time outside of traditional work hours to enable more participation by constituents?

3. Why did the Calloway County Fiscal Court amend administrative rules on June 15, 2020, to limit speakers to five minutes of speaking time and bar multiple constituents from speaking on issues of importance to the community? In the alternative to increasing speakers and time allotment for discussion, will the Calloway County Fiscal Court consider scheduling a special session to address the ongoing petition to remove the Calloway County Confederate Monument featuring a likeness of Robert E. Lee?

Respectfully,

Sherman Neal II, Esq.

Letters to the Editor

From June 5, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, the Murray Ledger & Times printed 50 “Letters to the Editor” related to Murray’s Confederate monument. Those 50 letters were written by 38 different people; and of those individuals, 22 were in favor of relocating the monument, 11 wrote in support of it remaining in its present location and five did not take a clear stance on either side. The entries below were curated to provide an overview of the sentiments expressed.

The following “Letters to the Editor” were submitted to and printed by the Murray Ledger & Times; they have not been edited and are presented as they were printed on the dates listed with each entry.

Bobby Copeland (Murray) – June 5, 2020

To the editor:

Robert E. Lee believed there should not be monuments to Confederate soldiers because it would hinder the nation’s healing. We should respect his wisdom, and his wishes, in a time when our nation desperately needs healing.

Bobby Copeland

Murray

Thomas Y. Hiter (Fairdealing) – June 5, 2020

To the editor:

Those of us who live in far Western Kentucky tend to be pretty reserved, most of the time. We have gotten used to being left alone, and we like it that way. We don’t often make trouble, and we don’t like it when outside agitators bring it to us. Oh, we’ve gotten used to the occasional retired MSU professor stirring up some kind of revisionist silliness, but that’s part of the charm of living here. We have our own local crackpots, and we tolerate them. But, when a young man from Illinois, who went to college in Tennessee, then later in West Virginia moves here to work in our town, at our University, and in less than a year starts telling us how to commemorate the service of our ancestors, that’s a little too much. And, we don’t need outsiders trying to bring national political activism into our homes, either. If you don’t like it here, go home. Leave us alone. Please.

Thomas Y. Hiter

Fairdealing

John P. Hart (Murray) – June 12, 2020

To the editor:

Last week a letter to the editor ran in the Murray Ledger with the gist that those of us who live in far west Kentucky don’t want or need opinions from outsiders. Really? How long does a person or family have to live here to have an opinion? Most of my family lines have been in the Jackson Purchase area of west Kentucky and northwest Tennessee for six generations. I guess that makes me an insider.

My insider’s opinion is that such an insular attitude is not what built the towns of the Purchase. It is not what built the strong, broad-based economy of Calloway County. It is not what built a fine university in far west Kentucky. It is not what will heal deep, generational, racial divisions.

We have serious problems. An idea is not good or bad based simply on the geographical history of the person voicing it. Good solutions – solutions that last – arise from the ability to put aside divisive rhetoric and work together for a way forward. All of us.

John P. Hart

Murray

Mark Blankenship (Murray) – June 12, 2020

To the editor:

It is way past time to remove the Robert E Lee statue from property owned by the people. The monument gives honor to those who fought to preserve slavery. Slavery should have been abolished in America as soon as we became a nation. It’s the most profound mistake of our founders. Just imagine how much better our country would be had slavery been outlawed in 1776; no civil war, no KKK, no lynchings, no segregation, etc.

Put it in a confederate cemetery where it no longer offends most citizens. And if it doesn’t offend you, you’re probably a racist and may not know it because of how you were raised, or from other life experiences. History is best preserved in books based on accurate research. Silence in the face of racism begets more racism. Black lives matter. They are our neighbors and God’s children.

Mark Blankenship

Murray

Larry D. McKenzie (Murray) – June 17, 2020

To the editor:

The first thing that occurred, some hate groups had Confederate flags removed from public displays because they found them offensive. Now there are groups that want Confederate statues removed because of the same reason or they simply don’t like whatever they represent. These statues should be a reminder to future generations of our past history, lest we forget. Our children could make the same mistake again. These statues are history and we can not change history.

We need to treasure these symbols as a reminder to future generations of the mistakes we made in the past as a nation. If we do succeed getting rid of flags, statues and symbols, where does it stop? I say, “What is next?” Do we remove the cross, a reminder of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, from our churches because it is distasteful to some one of us? God forbid! Do we remove our history from the textbooks because some group doesn’t like or approve of our history? History is history, it’s a fact, and it cannot be changed! We rather need to take it and learn from it. It happened whether we like it or not and we can use it to become wiser. What do we do next, allow our American flag, the symbol of freedom for this country we love that Americans have fought and died to protect to be destroyed by hate groups who finds our flag, our dear American flag offensive and remove it from public display? God forbid!

I am sure when we get to this point, we will have forgotten the statues that reminded us of our past and things that should have been remembered will have been lost to future generations who will make the same mistakes again. Imagine another Civil War. I pray to God we never get to this point in our future. I remember great minds that have said our nation, this nation will never be destroyed by a foreign nation but it will fall from within. Let us pray it never comes to this. But only we can prevent this from happening by treasuring our statues and flags and supporting freedom.

Larry D. McKenzie

Murray

Samuel L. White (Murray) – June 17, 2020

To the editor:

There has been much discussion concerning the Confederate soldiers monument past two weeks; the monument was placed with private funds, so perhaps the group wanting to remove and relocate the statue should start a GoFundMe page and raise the money needed.

A different fundraiser could be established to raise money to replace the space with a new monument like Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Nathan B. Stubblefield, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, or something else – have a contest we are the community votes for the replacement.

I believe this will satisfy most people on both sides of the issue. We can solve this if we were together.

Remember Kentucky’s motto: “United we stand. Divided we fall.”

Samuel L. White

Murray

Dan Leslie (Kirksey) – June 19, 2020

To the editor:

When the issue of statue removal was raised back in 2014 I said, “Remove it or not. I don’t care.” The statue had no meaning to me.

I now have a deeper understanding of the effects of the statue’s presence.

Several weeks ago, in the midst of the current pandemic, businesses closed and gatherings for everything from schools to sanctuaries were prohibited in response to COVID-19.

Facebook was filled with pros and cons as to the legitimacy of the government’s actions. One posting caught my attention. A picture of people being unloaded from cattle cars by Nazi soldiers. The caption’s tenor? “Go here, go there, don’t worry everything will be okay.” History tells us what happened to those millions of the people being transported as if they were cattle.

My reaction was anger. My father, along with millions of other men and women, fought against the Nazi reign of holocaust. I once drew a swastika on a piece of paper. Dad saw it and explained to me what it meant to him and asked me never to draw it again.

That picture, of people sent to slaughter, being used as a symbol of someone’s perceived truth caused me to think of the cost so many paid to rid the world of the Nazi culture. Also, the ultimate cost people paid, because of their heritage or a perceived weakness – their death.

So, as the question of Robert E. Lee’s statue is being debated I care what the statue symbolizes – subjugation, repression. It needs to be removed. It symbolizes enforced servitude and represents a culture that represses people’s lives due to “who” they are.

These are the thoughts and words of a 72-year-old who has enjoyed, and profited from, the privileges our culture affords me, simply because I am white and male.

Dan Leslie

Kirksey

Rev. Dwight A. Moody, Ph.D. (St. Simons Island, GA) – June 26, 2020

To the editor:

I am a resident of Glynn County, Georgia (where three white men are awaiting trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery). But I was raised in Murray. My dad was a minister at First Baptist Church, the same church that ordained me to gospel ministry in 1977.

I grew up around the square, delivering papers for the Ledger & Times, collecting payment from merchants on all four sides, and marching in a parade with the Murray High School band.

I know the Confederate statue well. I add my name to those calling for its removal. Let’s be part of a global movement to affirm the dignity of all people and reject the glorification of racism, violence and rebellion against the United States.

There are many people from Murray whose statue would better represent the values and histories of the county. Appoint a commission to solicit nominations for one or more replacements.

As the Bible says, “Give honor to whom honor is due”!

Rev. Dwight A. Moody, Ph.D.

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Joan Mullins (Murray) – July 1, 2020

To the editor:

Black Lives Matter? Black lives don’t really matter to them. BLM’s goal is to protest, damage, loot and destroy. Is destruction an expression of freedom? Is that what you want to teach your children?

We have had the privilege of living next to, working with, worshiping with and having dear friends who were a different color than us. All fine people.

Our state and local governments are allowing this destruction to continue. Are YOU “offended” by BLM behavior? These protesters are NOT hard-working people who pay taxes, own businesses or take pride in their neighborhoods. They are outsiders who come in, intimidate, demand and destroy. We tolerate their vile language, destruction and demands hoping to keep peace. These radicals will soon try to take over our religious symbols, our churches, homes, businesses, halls of fame AND our freedom if we continue to allow it.

They want to remove our statues and replace them with their statues – the burned out and boarded up buildings left behind in the aftermath if they don’t get their way.

Removing a statue will not remove history. Are they “offended” if their name happens to be the same as one of the “offending” statues? Sherman, Lee, Washington, Martin L. King, Rosa, Davis, etc. Are they as EAGER to change their name as destroy a statue? A lot of Black people have risen high above the heights of statues. Statues are being destroyed throughout the world that had nothing to do with BLM war Civil War. Read history. How do you think Hitler, ISIS and other terrorist groups got started?

Stand up for freedom, your flag.

Joan Mullins

Murray

John P. Hart (Murray) – July 10, 2020

To the editor:

Heritage is a person’s sense of inherited identity. History is the study of the facts of past events. I have as much claim as anyone in this county to a Confederate family background. My Hart/Finney/Coleman/Hamlin/Jetton/Rhea/Yarborough roots cover six generations of life in Calloway and Graves counties. My ancestors were confederate in uniform or sympathy. That’s my family history. The heritage I was taught to respect was not the historical actions of those who took up arms against the United States to defend the institution of slavery. My heritage is the value passed down by generations of people of deep faith who worked for the good and betterment of our community.

As an actively practicing Christian, I am bound by Christ’s second great commandment that I am to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” At St. John’s Episcopal Church, we renew our baptismal covenant at least once each year. We promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being.” The Confederate memorial is an affront to justice and to the dignity of many of our citizens.

Heritage shouldn’t hurt. The statue should be removed to a cemetery or national battlefield where memorials to historical war dead belong.

John P. Hart

Murray

Mike White (Murray) – July 22, 2020

To the editor:

While I personally believe the statue should stay on the court square. I also realize that there is the constant threat of those who will vandalize the statue. For some it appears that it is their way and only their beliefs matter. So with this in mind I have an idea.

If the owners of the statue are agreeable to its relocation, I say as a compromise the protesters and those who feel so strongly for it’s removal should pay the charges associated with the relocation. No tax payer dollars should be involved. When the protesters have the full cost in hand, then if all are satisfied then and only then can it be moved.

This would seem to be a fair compromise where each side is willing to give some ground. With the owners giving some ground as to the relocation and the protesters willing to pay for their strongly held beliefs. While doubtful all will be happy both sides will make sacrifices.

Thank you for listening.

Mike White

Murray

Isabel Duarte-Gray (Cambridge, MA) – July 22, 2020

Dear Judge Imes:

Your recent statements to WKMS occasion me to write this letter. You asked “who are we to judge the people of 1900” and implored opponents of Murray’s Confederate Monument to “understand the purpose and intents of the Ku Klux Klan,” since the connection between the Klan and the United Daughters of the Confederacy is easily proved.

This question is beneath the dignity of our citizens. We are all qualified to judge the perpetrators of racist lynch mobs and church bombings. Any student of American history understands that due process is critical to a functioning democracy. An elected judge, of all people, should condemn vigilantism, racial violence, and mob justice—due process, or the process of trial by jury and appeal, is neither a new invention, nor the product of a contemporary mindset. The Magna Carta and 17th C. British Common Law reforms both provide the basis of American due process. Both contributed to the invention of human rights, and both developed to oppose tyranny.

The argument made in our Fiscal Court hearing to preserve the statue relied on assertions of birthright, that one is only truly “from” Murray, and has a say in its continuance, after several generations of residency. Such nativism is a fundamentally monarchic position: only those born to power may wield power. Are these the values of our city? Do we discount public service, kindness, and neighborliness?

I hope you will reconsider your stance on, apparently, the Klan, the UDC, and the rights of so many Murray citizens to enjoy public land without a daily reminder that they were once property.

Isabel Duarte-Gray

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Linda Cherry (Murray City Council Member) – July 24, 2020

Regarding comments Mr. Neal made when he emailed the city council and addressed the fiscal court about removing the monument, I have some suggestions. Some comments he made were prefaced with the words, “I demand,” “non-negotiable,” and “immediately.”

When the city council was informed that if the monument wasn’t removed by the fiscal court, there was a real possibility that thousands of violent protestors would descend on Murray. We were informed that if they came, our combined police and sheriff’s departments wouldn’t have the manpower to control the mob and prevent senseless destruction, looting and harm to our citizens.

My decision to vote with the council to request the fiscal court to please consider removing the statue was based on the premise that as an elected city council member, my first priority has always been the safety and welfare of our citizens.

So, Mr. Neal, you will find as you go through life that “please” and “thank you” will open many doors for you. While making demands of the very persons who have authority to say “NO” can sometimes result in hurt feelings and unsatisfactory results.

When all is said and done at the end of the day, what really matters is how we treat one another. That’s the most important thing. “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you,” can soothe the souls of those who have harmed or been harmed. Such simple words we’ve known since childhood, yet deeply meaningful when spoken to one another.

“May the judgement not be too heavy upon us” – T.S. Eliot

Linda Cherry

Murray City Council member

Richard D. Hurt (Rochester, MN) – August 21, 2020

To the editor:

The monument to Confederate soldiers and Robert E. Lee is a symbol of white supremacy and has no place on public display in 21st century Murray. Alexander H. Stevens vice president of the Confederate States of America, on March 21, 1861 spoke about the “foundations” of the new government, and said “.. its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

Despite the deaths of over 700,000 soldiers and untold suffering by millions of Americans both North and South Jefferson Davis was unrepentant in his belief of white supremacy and slavery of Black people, stating in his farewell to the Mississippi legislature in 1884, “… if it were to do over again, I would again do just as I did in April 1861. I cannot believe that the cause for which our sacrifices were made can ever be lost but rather hope that those who deny the justice of our asserted claims will learn from experience….” The Lost Cause “culture” he defended was not a benevolent genteel culture rather a culture based on white supremacy. Unfortunately Davis’ Lost Cause legacy continues into the 21st century and it is time to let his cause be lost permanently.

Any doubters of the cause of the Civil War should read the constitution of the Confederacy which would have institutionalized slavery in perpetuity. The statue on Murray’s court square is a constant reminder of that painful ideology, a symbol of that racist system and an idol to a white supremacist mindset. Monuments should be reserved to honor those who fought and sacrificed for honorable causes not those who led men to their deaths in defense of the supposed right for one human to own and enslave another.

Richard D. Hurt, Murray High School Class of 1962

Rochester, Minnesota

David H. Miller (Murray) – August 26, 2020

To the editor:

I was pleased to see my long-time friend Richard Hurt has a passion for removing the Confederate statue from our court square.

I wonder, however, where this passion has been for the past fifty four years or so while he has lived elsewhere. The statue was dedicated many, many years ago. Only recently has there been a call to discuss an alternative placement of the monument.

I might suggest that Dr. Hurt find a cause that he can get behind with the same passion he has shown relative to the statue.

Maybe he could concentrate on lessening racial tensions in his adopted state if he recognizes that such tensions actually exist.

David H. Miller

Murray

Dr. Ray Horton (Murray) – September 4, 2020

When the Murray Ledger and Times posted a picture of the “March on Murray” demonstration to its Facebook page on August 28, a man responded as follows: “Trump should declare martial law and shoot them.” After months of observing the pro-Confederate counter protesters, the Calloway County Fiscal Court, and the swarm of bigots who seem to live in the comments section of our local news outlets, I am increasingly convinced that the man does, in fact, speak for many in America’s “friendliest small town.”

Responding to the same post, another local resident quipped that because many protesters were students, they “should not have a say.” Later that weekend, a similar social media post which falsely accused protesters of attempting to vandalize the statue asserted that the protesters were “outsiders” bussed into town by “Antifa.” These bizarre accusations instigated the comical but dangerous spectacle of 60 armed men “guarding” the statue in Paris, Tennessee against these nonexistent marauders.

Disdain for “outsiders” is widespread in Murray, and it is unacceptable. I was not born here, but my two daughters were. One was born at Calloway Hospital just this past Sunday. As a parent whose children will grow up here, it disturbs me that I must help them understand that despite Murray’s monument to white supremacy, and despite neighbors who threaten violence over a peaceful protest, Murray remains a hometown worthy of admiration and love.

Murray is full of racists who know nothing about the history they claim to defend. But it is also full of courage and compassion. The hundreds who marched through the rain to court square last Friday reminded me of why my wife and I have chosen to live here and raise our family. This is our town, too. We aren’t going anywhere.

Dr. Ray Horton

Murray

Helen Spann (Murray) – September 11, 2020

To the editor:

Robert E Lee has stood silently on the corner of Murray’s court square for as long as I can remember, overlooking the goings on of our little town. We were named by Rand McNally as the Best Place to Retire in the US, the Most Playful City, the Friendliest Small Town. Recently the Kentucky Chamber listed Murray in the top five places to live. We opened our hearts and our small town to you and invited all to come — for a visit, for school, for business or to be a part of us — and you came. Why did you bring your hate with you?

Helen Spann

Murray

Geraldine Mellon (Hazel) – September 16, 2020

To the editor:

Robert E. Lee on the square was quaint to me when I came here 20-odd years ago. I had no quarrel with him. Recently after taking off my blinders of white privilege, I no longer consider him quaint. He represents the faction bent upon ripping the nation apart in the name of “states rights,” the nefarious “rights” to grow rich upon the backs of enslaved human beings.

I did not bring hate to Murray. It has been here all along white-washed by artificial history.

Murray is a wonderful, loving community. There’s no denying that. But this statue business has revealed old ideas and thoughts best acknowledged and evaluated honestly before once more being relegated to the past.

Geraldine Mellon

Hazel

Mike Miller (Murray) – October 2, 2020

To the editor:

Given what I know of the high character and integrity of Robert E. Lee, I believe the great general who would most want to see his statue removed from the Calloway County Courthouse grounds and placed with his fallen troops would be Robert E. Lee.

Mike Miller

Murray

Evan G. Conard (Scott Depot, WV) – December 23, 2020

To the editor:

Removal of Confederate monuments, like the Robert E. Lee statue in Murray, Kentucky, is not cancel culture. Removal of the statue will not suddenly erase Robert E. Lee, secession, the Confederacy, and the Civil War from history. Rather, removal of these statues, particularly from public spaces, will ensure that history is placed in the proper context.

These are basic facts: secession and the armed conflict perpetrated by the Confederacy during the Civil War was an act of treason, and secession occurred out of a direct desire to preserve and perpetuate the institution of slavery. Confederate monuments and memorials are simply nonverbal tools used for intimidation and the tacit endorsement of a system of racial discrimination.

Sherman Neal first petitioned for removal of the Confederate statue on the Calloway County courthouse grounds in June 2020. Sherman and I were law school classmates at West Virginia University, and I wrote directly to Calloway County elected officials in June to lend my voice in support of my friend and the efforts of others in the Murray area. It has now been more than six months since Sherman first requested the removal of the Confederate statue, and I again write in support of the efforts to relocate the Confederate monument.

History will not be erased by the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials. Instead of glorifying the memory of the Confederacy, we should look back with shame so as to not repeat prior transgressions. We can do better by thinking on the sins of our history to ensure a just future for all. Calloway County can do better by removing the Confederate memorial from the courthouse grounds.

Evan G. Conard

Scott Depot, West Virginia

Shannon Davis-Roberts (Murray) – April 9, 2021

To the editor:

“Privilege is not knowing that you’re hurting others and not listening when they tell you.”

– DaShanne Stokes

The presence of Robert E. Lee standing atop a “whites-only” water fountain is unwelcoming and hurtful to many prospective and current Calloway County community members. In contrast to what has been said, the #movethemonument group does not want to destroy or erase this white-washed, blood-stained history. Moving it to a more appropriate setting like the Bowman Cemetary or Fort Heiman is a reasonable compromise. The Fiscal Court’s continued dismissal of our calls to #movethemonument is a prime example of privilege. Our elected officials should put their pride and privilege aside to do what is morally right and Move the Monument.

Shannon Davis-Roberts

Murray

Melissa Easley (Murray) – May 19, 2021

Indifference. That was my first reaction to Move the Monument. It has been there for all of my 78 years. My grandmother was a member of the UDC, and as a child I went with her to the meetings. I never connected that with the (statue) until lately. I remember the statue only as a joke clothed in a high school graduation gown, the center of a mystery on the night Robert E. Lee’s “cannon ball” broke off and rolled across the street, or the legend of why it faces toward the northeast.

My indifference has turned now to “relocate the monument.” I do not believe Lee needs to be memorialized on our court square. It is not about erasing history. It’s about our community deciding who we memorialize. It is about understanding that this statue hurts people in our community. We are not responsible for what happened years ago during slavery. But to quote the book “Caste,” “We are responsible for what good or ill we do to people that are alive today. We are responsible for every decision we make that hurts a human being.” Walk in a Black family’s shoes holding their Black child’s hand around the monument, and how would you feel?

I am not concerned with political parties, winning elections or measuring popular opinion. I am concerned with a large portion of our citizens who have been made to feel lesser because that statue exists and that many locals support it. I ask the Fiscal Court to look inward at the harm this statue continues to cause, and I ask you to consider your duty. The results may be a lost election or upset constituents, but the results of executing your duty extend far beyond our small mortal existence.

Melissa Easley

Murray

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