Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) will ask the Board of Supervisors to send the question of Loudoun’s Confederate war memorial to the county heritage commission, with an eye toward erecting another monument to tell the rest of the story.
“The call to move the statue is the wrong approach,” said Higgins in a press release. “The Confederate soldier statue should stay where it is, but it should not stand alone.”
Higgins said he would not support an expected motion by County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) to ask the General Assembly to grant localities the legal authority to take down war memorials and monuments. Currently, Loudoun does not have the power to legally take down its Confederate monument.
“I don’t support removing memorials, and so if that’s what her intention is, I’m not supportive of that, and I really don’t care which memorial it is that somebody wants to take down,” Higgins said.
Randall has not called for the statue to be removed, but has said she supports giving localities the authority to decide the fate of monuments and memorials.
Instead, Higgins would like to direct the Loudoun County Heritage Commission to “report on recommendations of measures that fully reflect events of historic significance on the courthouse grounds without removing the current Confederate statue.”
The Heritage Commission is a 16-member body appointed by the Board of Supervisors and charged to “support and encourage the identification, documentation, protection, preservation, and celebration of the heritage resources of Loudoun County,” and “advise the Board of Supervisors and other county offices regarding heritage resources.” It includes members from each election district, including at-large, and other people with knowledge of working with historic buildings, archaeology, conservation, history tourism, and black history, among other fields.
Its members include Pastor Michelle Thomas of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries International, historian Bronwen Souders, Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition member Mitch Diamond, and Envision Loudoun stakeholders committee and onetime Planning Commission member Chad Campbell, among others.
Higgins penned an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sept. 8 headlined “A Confederate soldier in this Virginia town should not stand alone.” In it, he argued “The call to remove the statue is the wrong approach. The Confederate soldier statue should stay where it is, but it should not stand alone on the courthouse grounds.” Instead, he argued, Loudoun could follow the example of Talbot County, MD, the birthplace of Frederick Douglass, which also has a Confederate monument. It has added a statue of Douglass on the same courthouse grounds.
If Higgins’ motion is successful, the Heritage Commission’s recommendation may come with a head start. In September 2015, the Board of Supervisors voted to set aside $50,000 toward a monument honoring Union soldiers from Loudoun on the courthouse grounds. That money is held in reserve until the rest of the funding is needed.
The county government had previously contributed $50,000 to the “Spirit of Loudoun” statue honoring Revolutionary War veterans unveiled in 2015. Clerk of the Loudoun Circuit Court Gary Clemens led the project, which cost $420,000 overall.
“Loudoun County was a microcosm of our nation during the Civil War. We cannot forget that many men, Confederate and Union, heavily traversed Loudoun and lost their lives in our county, brother literally fought against brother; Loudoun is truly hallowed ground,” Higgins stated. “Nor can we forget Loudoun’s enslaved population: In 1860, 5,501 slaves lived in Loudoun County – 25 percent of Loudoun’s population of 21,744.”
Loudoun’s Confederate monument came to the forefront of conversation in the county and region after a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville became a rallying point for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. They came to the city and to protest and launch violent clashes after the Charlottesville city council voted to take down the statue. Loudoun, being a county rather than a city, does not have the authority to move its Confederate statue under state law.
“We are always better off when we learn from each other,” Higgins stated. “Let’s not tear down one another or existing memorials. Instead, let’s build our understanding of our history. Loudoun’s unique history is our strength, not our weakness. We can’t learn from history, if we hide it.”