Still no takers, but DeKalb says Confederate monument will move

The Confederate monument sits behind the old courthouse in Decatur Square. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

The Confederate monument sits behind the old courthouse in Decatur Square. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Even after DeKalb County extended its deadline for two months, no one raised a hand to take ownership of a Confederate monument in downtown Decatur.

The county did receive two written suggestions on what to do with the 30-foot tall obelisk. A woman in Marietta proposed moving it to Allatoona Pass Battlefield at Red Top Mountain State Park in Bartow County. And a Buford man offered this recommendation: Leave the monument where it is in Decatur Square.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of this issue

The activists spoke out during a DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meeting.

DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader said the board is still committed to removing the monument that was erected in 1908 and sits outside the Old Courthouse at the center of town.

Commissioners, who will discuss options at their Tuesday meeting, want to find a location where the obelisk can be displayed with context about its origins and the “Lost Cause” movement. State law prohibits Confederate memorials from being taken down, but the goal is to move it to a place that isn’t so prominent.

“At the very least, it’s going to move from that particular spot,” Rader said. “We have committed to doing that.”

Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, who has been most vocal about removing the monument, said she’d like to see the monument put into storage until someone volunteers to take responsibility for it. But she understands that likely won’t be allowed.

Johnson plans to ask Rader to form a task force that considers options and the cost of removal.

“We’re not giving up,” she said. “We are going to do something.”

The county has spent months trying to find takers for the monument. Officials purchased advertisements and cold called museums and parks. No one took the bait.

Jennifer Keaton, an attorney in Marietta, emailed DeKalb officials after visiting Red Top Mountain when dropping of her son at camp. She had read news reports about the difficulty county officials faced in finding a landing spot for the monument and decided to send in her suggestion.

She noted that the park is the site of a Civil War battle held shortly after General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta. During her visit, Keaton saw memorials and markers at the park honoring soldiers from both Union and Confederate states.

“It may be worth exploring placement of this memorial within or near the memorial at the Allatoona Battlefield,” Keaton wrote. “Certainly, the memorial would be on public display there and ceiling heights would not be a concern. As to historical relevance, there’s space there to tell the rest of the story of the fall out of the Civil War decades later.”

Barry Colbaugh, the Buford resident who suggested leaving the monument where it is, also supported adding context and perhaps making the surrounding area a tribute to veterans in general.

“I just thought about enhancing it rather than trying to remove it,” Barry Colbaugh told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They’ve asked for different groups and solicited for different groups to remove it, but it would be an expensive process to haul something that big.”

Facts about the Confederate Monument near the Old Courthouse

  • Erected in 1908
  • 30 feet tall
  • Located outside the Old Courthouse in Decatur Square
  • Built by the A. Evans Camp of Confederate Veterans and the Agnes Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy

Partial text

“After forty two years another generation bears witness to the future that these men were of a covenant keeping race who held fast to the faith as it was given by the fathers of the Republic. Modest in prosperity, gentle in peace, brave in battle and undespairing in defeat, they knew no law of life but loyalty and truth and civic faith, and to these virtues they consecrated their strength.”