County officials confirmed the monument’s removal in a news release. With supervision from county personnel, a crew that specialized in the deconstruction of art pieces arrived on scene early in the morning and relocated the memorial to a Denton County storage facility.
The move came after a unanimous June 9 decision by the Denton County Commissioners Court to relocate the monument and present it in a historical context, per the Texas Historical Commission’s wishes.
“For over one hundred years, this memorial has stood next to the courthouse and meant many things to many different people,” Denton County Judge Andy Eads said in the release. “To some, it is a linkage to our past heritage, and to others, it is a symbol of oppression. We have tried hard to thread the needle between these views: to honor sacrifice while respecting the sensibilities of people who have approached the Denton County Commissioners Court in good faith. We intend to continue to do so.”
The Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned and erected the Denton County memorial in 1918 to commemorate Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War, but the monument evolved throughout the years into a local flashpoint in conversations about race relations. A significant portion of the Confederate platform was the belief that states had the right to continue race-based slavery at their own discretion, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Local activists interpreted the county’s decision as a small victory in a larger battle to eliminate racism.
“I just didn’t know what to do,’” said Willie Hudspeth, a Denton-based contractor and a 21-year proponent of the monument’s removal from the courthouse area in Denton. “Now, [several] hours later, I’m thinking, ‘Yes. What are we going to do now?’ I’m just an activist of type person. What do we do now? I look at the climate we’re in now with Black Lives Matter and the COVID situation and say, ‘OK. What do I do now? I have a voice.’”
According to the release, Denton County will retain custody and ownership of the memorial. County commissioners unanimously approved three Texas Historical Commission Executive Committee provisions during an emergency meeting June 18.
Those provisions stated that the memorial will be relocated onto county property within one year, that the Texas Historical Commission will continue its protection and that the county and commission will discuss how to include a description of the history of slavery and the African American experience related to the legacy of the Civil War.
“What I want done with that statue, and what I’ll be talking about, is to find somewhere at the cemetery where the people are that they say they’re trying to honor," Hudspeth said. “They’re there. Their names are there. Their history is there. Put it there. I will be against taking any taxpayer money to restore it and put it somewhere else,” he said.
Questions and suggestions from constituents pertaining to the memorial can be submitted by email to the Denton County Art Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.