The Year in Review: New Battle Opens over War Memorial

The violent clash in August at a demonstration protesting the proposed removal from display of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville fueled a new debate over the future of the Confederate war memorial in Loudoun’s courthouse square.

The statue was commissioned by the Confederate Veterans and the Loudoun Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which began raising funds for the project as early as 1901. It was created by sculptor Frederick William Sievers, who also created the Virginia Memorial at the Gettysburg battlefield and statues of Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury, the Confederacy’s Chief of Sea Coast, River and Harbor Defenses, that are on display on Monument Avenue in Richmond. A June 1908 report in The Mirror newspaper about the Loudoun memorial unveiling described the event as an ‘all-around success’ and ‘an honor to the citizens of Loudoun County.’”

Critics of the memorial say it is an unwanted relic of the Jim Crow South and can be interpreted as a threat to black residents seeking justice in the courtrooms behind it.

County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) quickly called for a community discussion about the issue. “For nearly a decade the question of the appropriateness of the Confederate Statue at the Leesburg Courthouse has arisen,” she stated. “Following the events in Charlottesville that resulted in the tragic death of three people, I know and appreciate that emotions around these issues are high. This is why it is important to have an open, respectful, inclusive dialogue.”

Whether the Board of Supervisors has authority to alter or move the memorial also is a matter of debate. According to the Attorney General’s Office, state law would not permit a county government to change such memorials.

Confederate War memorials sparked a nationwide debate during 2017 and new discussion about the future of the statue placed in front of the Loudoun Courthouse in 1908. In October, a class of Herndon High School students, led by social studies teacher Douglas Graney, visited the monument and met with Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg), who advocates moving it from the courthouse grounds.

Loudoun’s courthouse square also includes memorials to those who served in the Revolutionary War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf wars.

The issue is under review by the county’s 16-member Heritage Commission.

In the days after the Charlottesville protest—which resulted in the death of one protestor who was run over by a car that was driven into a crowd and two state troopers killed when their helicopter crashed—vandals marred the Loudoun memorial with spray paint. The damage was quickly cleaned up, but no suspects were identified. The incident resulted in the addition of more security cameras being installed at the courts complex.

Clean-up crews moved quickly this morning to remove graffiti that had seen spray painted on Loudoun County’s Confederate War Memorial overnight. [Norman K. Styer/Loudoun Now]

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