Stone Mountain petition on rocky ground

Call for monument’s removal generates little support

Aunt Pittypat, don’t faint. A metro Atlanta resident has created an online petition calling for the removal of the Confederate monument from the face of Stone Mountain.

Pittypat, as film buffs and reading enthusiasts know, was Scarlett O’Hara’s easily agitated aunt in “Gone with the Wind.” At the mention of yankees, she’d sway on her feet.

She’d probably hit the floor if she heard about McCartney Forde.

Forde, who lives in DeKalb County, recently created the petition, which asks that the carved images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson be removed from the mountain. In their place should be a carving honoring veterans who were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in all U.S. wars since World War I, the petition says.

The petition also asks that Memorial Hall, which faces the monument across the park’s sprawling lawn, be remodeled to commemorate America’s war dead since 1900.

The “three men embossed on the face of arguably the most famous landmark in the great state of Georgia represent the root cause for what is widely considered the darkest period in our nation’s history,” reads the petition, addressed to Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and a handful of metro-area Georgia lawmakers. “…Some might argue that this monument honors so-called heroes of the Civil War, but in reality it is a monument that perpetuates the perception of Georgia as an icon of racism, slavery and oppression.”

Forde could not be reached for comment Tuesday. On Monday, he told WXIA 11Alive that the monument, 90 feet tall, 190 feet long and stretching across nearly two acres of rock, needs to go.

“It’s almost like a black eye or an embarrassing smudge on our culture,” he said.

Jack Bridwell begged to differ. The Moultrie resident, commander of the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, learned of the petition Monday night when a fellow SCV member called him.

“When I got over laughing about it, I got a little mad,” said Bridwell, a retired educator who traces his Confederate roots to Zion Bridwell, an Atlanta newspaperman who gave up printing for soldiering in the 1861-1865 war. “The only reason this fellow (Forde) is doing this is to get his name in the news, in the newspapers.”

Bill Stephens was more diplomatic. He’s CEO of Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state authority that oversees the park.

“I think people have the right to express their opinions,” said Stephens.

The monument is a park “showpiece,” Stephens said. He’s confident the three gentlemen, whose likenesses took decades to complete, will remain on the mountain, looking away, looking away.

Jayland and Diane Arp hope so. Residents of Vancouver, Wash., they came to Georgia to sample its attractions. In six days, they’d visited Savannah, Tybee Island and Cleveland. On their last full day in the state, they came to Stone Mountain.

They aimed cameras at the monument, a quarter mile away, and marveled. The Arps also snorted when the learned of Forde’s petition.

“It is a part of our history, and it’s art,” said Diane Arp. “If you don’t like it, don’t come look at it.”

Her husband nodded. “It’s a great part of our history,” he said. “I hope they keep it.”

Odds are good that Georgia will. As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 131 signatures.

Pittypat, relax.

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