CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Harrison County Commission rejected a motion Wednesday to return the Stonewall Jackson statue in front of the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg to the group that put it there.
The motion, made by Commissioner David Hinkle, was defeated 2-1. It followed a long debate and comments from more than 50 people at the meeting.
The Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue in the early 1950s. It along with statues of Confederate figures have come under fire in recent weeks following the Minnesota police custody death of George Floyd.
One of the speakers in Clarksburg Wednesday was Colin Grant Jackson, a resident of Illinois and descendent of Stonewall Jackson. He said the statue does not belong in front of a building dedicated to impartial justice and the Daughters of the Confederacy had more in mind than just to honor the Harrison County native.
“It’s clear that their intent with the reaction of this statue and several other statues 90-years after the conflict ended was to spread white supremacy tactics,” Jackson said. “To scare off the black population from voting and to scare them from speaking out in the 1950s, that’s what this statue is for.”
Area resident Jennifer Olyoke told commissioners the statue was part of history, and removing would do nothing to change the range of emotions people are faced with as topics like slavery are brought into the open.
“Where do you draw the line and what’s next?” Olyoke asked. “My bet is that the next argument is are we’re going to be having is are we going to follow the way of Seattle and Milwaukee and defund our police departments next, this leads to complete and utter anarchy and it needs to stop.”
Another resident, Bill Foster believes the statue is fitting monument for a historical figure and contends the Clarksburg area has moved well beyond racism.
“The area, which has had a black mayor and a black police chief and has black people in other positions around the city and county now,” Foster said. “I’m sorry, but if there’s nobody black here to complain about it I don’t know what the complaint is.”
Those in opposition to the statue say it’s a stain on the community and should be replaced with a tribute to immigrants to the hard work and diversity of the people.
Commission President Ron Watson introduced a plan to allow a vote on the issue through the county clerk’s web page, but no action was taken on the proposal. Watson said he was in favor of keeping the statue and cited a quote from George W. Bush, “A great nation does not hide it’s history, it faces it’s flaws and corrects them.”