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Union monument - will it reunite Lawrence County?

By Clyde L. Stancil
DAILY Staff Writer

cstancil@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Citing a need to unite Lawrence County, a North Courtland woman received the County Commission's permission to erect a monument dedicated to Civil War Union soldiers.

Brenda Hampton, who said she represents a group named "The Friendly Five," approached commissioners about the idea at a Monday meeting. She said she and her supporters will pay for the monument.

Hampton said she researched Union soldiers from Alabama and Lawrence County and some of their names are recognizable today.

The list includes Pointers, Shacklefords, Watkinses, Sykeses, Mastersons, McCullochs and Owenses.

"The people who live here today are probably their descendants," Hampton said.

A controversy developed late last year when the Sons of Confederate Veterans received the commission's approval to erect a monument on the courthouse lawn. The monument contains political language, such as a sentence that praises soldiers who fought against Northern aggression. Hampton's monument is dedicated to all Union soldiers who fought in the war. Commissioners asked her to limit it to Union soldiers from Lawrence County.

The monument also will say "We exist to help those who cannot help themselves. God Bless America."

Hampton said The Friendly Five is a community group that helps children in need, such as providing clothing and taking them on cultural trips to places such as civil rights museums.

She said limiting the monument's dedication to black Union soldiers would have been counterproductive.

"I'm trying to bring unity into Lawrence County because we're divided," Hampton said after the meeting. "(Unity) is something that's very much needed, and for us to grow, we have to get over our black and white issues."

During the meeting, commissioners said the controversy over their approval of the Confederate monument got out of hand. The four voting commissioners unanimously approved it. They were Hutson Parker, Barkley Lentz, Bradley Cross and Mose Jones. Randall LouAllen was chairman at the time and did not vote. The chairman votes only in the case of a tie.

Jones, the lone black commissioner, who represents majority-black District 1, initially voted for the Confederate monument, but changed his mind in later votes.

At the time, Jones said he also would vote to place a Union monument at the courthouse if someone requested it. He said Monday that the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter criticized him for his vote, calling it "a direct betrayal of the heritage and future of African Americans in your district ... not to mention others of color who fought for the freedom of the Negro from slavery."

Jones said he was the only commissioner to receive the letter. Jones said Monday that the NAACP could have asked permission to erect a monument to Union soldiers, but did not do it.

NAACP comment

NAACP Chapter President Bobby Diggs appeared before the commission and criticized its decision to approve the monument."Some remarks are not worthy of a response, and this is the perfect opportunity to exercise that right," Diggs said Monday night in response to Jones' comments.

"This is a signal that we have a unified county," Jones said. "All of the controversy over the monument was not necessary."

Commission Chairman Lentz agreed.

"There is a good working relationship in Lawrence County, and the monument thing got out of hand," he said. "There was no attempt to discriminate against anyone. My grandfather on one side and my great-grandfather on the other side fought (in the war). I'm just glad we came together."

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