WilCo Commission takes no action on 'slavery' marker for Confederate statue

The fight over the confederate soldier statue on the Williamson County courthouse grounds continues.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY - Williamson County commissioners took no action on a second attempt to add a historical marker next to the Confederate soldier statue on the courthouse grounds.

The group Courageous Conversations proposed to submit an application to the Texas Historical Commission for a plaque that would give "context" to the statue. 

And even though the commissioners didn't move forward, they felt the conversation progressed. 

"I mean the positive thing is we actually got a motion to consider it. Last time, it was tabled," said Rev Chuck Freeman. 

The commissioners' meeting started off by listening to public comments on the issue. Some members of the audience strongly disagreed with adding a historical marker, with one woman considering it vandalism and called the Confederate soldier statue "art".

There were mixed views around the room. One man from the public did not want the commissioners to approve the historical marker but instead add another statue. Another woman said the historical marker would address slavery, and that "the truth will set us free." 

Several people at the commissioners' meeting spoke on the topic, ranging from removing the Confederate soldier statue, adding a historical marker, or installing a second statue. 

Commissioner Terry Cook suggested they move forward with the application for a plaque. 

But ultimately, they took no action, saying one day was not enough time to discuss it because the state deadline for the historical marker is Wednesday. 

People at the meeting had very different reactions. 

"I think that they made the correct decision. Because just like any of us, we don't like things sprung on us at the last minute, especially a weighty controversial item like this that has the community -- not only here -- but throughout the country divided. This is a hot-button issue wherever you go,” said Shelby Lillet, with the Williamson County Grays, the sons of Confederate Veterans. 

"I’m not surprised. I'm not surprised. And the excuse seems to be that it was turned in late, but this has been going on for over two years," said Ella Saulsmorrison. 

Saulsmorrison’s family has lived in the area since the 1900s. 

"Things need to change, and having something to explain what happened, why it happened, what effect it's had on the population here in Williamson County,” said Saulsmorrison. 

She said her family has always had concerns about the statue. 

"The truth is not being told,” said Saulsmorrison. 

"I'm disappointed in the vote. I'm not surprised,” said Freeman. "This community is still pretty much represented by the white majority."

Freeman went on to add:

"I do think the discussion, you could tell several of the commissioners are struggling with the issue. I think a couple of them seem unphased or don't seem to have much interest in it, but I think that's a step in the right direction. It's frustrating because we all want something to be resolved and here we are another year before we can do anything."

Littet said he’s met with some of the people who want to add a plaque, but said a compromise doesn’t seem likely at this time. 

"They have an agenda. And yes, I think that we always want to be able to discuss things, but it has to be some good back and forth,” said Littet. "I got to tell you, sometimes it is very difficult to find some area that you can compromise on when one side is way over that and is not going to consider any other viewpoint but their own."

One of the other ideas was to add another statue on the courthouse grounds, but Littet says what that looks like is delicate. 

"The one model on the liberation statue in Barbados is not going to fly,” said Lillet. 

“Why not,” asked a man standing nearby. 

“It is not going to fly because I think it has no relevance whatsoever to Williamson County," said Lillet. 

He said it needs to reflect what has happened in our area during that time. 

"Whatever it might be should show what actually happened here in Williamson County, not what happened in Virginia, not what happened in Tennessee, but what happened here in our county,” said Lillet. "I think the majority of the citizens of this county are not opposed to erecting such a memorial monument -- whatever kind of form it might take -- that talks about the liberation or civil rights of African Americans, but the form it takes physically -- and by word --  is going to be very important."

The group in support of adding the historical plaque want to do so to deal with the "tragic and ugly" parts of our history. They continued saying, "We're not trying to rewrite history, we're just trying to get the whole truth told." The opposing group believes the statue is in memory of Confederate soldiers. 

While the Texas Historical Commission would be in charge of the description on the historical marker, the Courageous Conversations group said they would pay for it. 

Judge Gattis said he was disappointed the Confederate soldier statue is the only one on the courthouse grounds, however, does not believe the historical marker will solve the problem. Commissioner Long did not support the motion, saying "Williamson County did not vote to secede." 

Saulsmorrison said they won’t give up on the push for change. 

"We're not going to stop, this is just a little road bump, but we can go around it,” said Saulsmorrison. 

RELATED:

Georgetown faith leaders propose new statue in addition to Confederate soldier 

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