By Beth Lawrence
The controversy over Jackson County’s Confederate monument will take another turn as final steps are being put in place to cover some of the more hotly debated images on its base.
In May commissioners voted to pay for three bronze plaques to cover the Confederate battle flag and the words “Our heroes of the Confederacy” on the pedestal beneath the statue.
AOA Signs of Yadkinville was contracted to design and create the panels.
Like so many other things during the COVID pandemic, the work is behind schedule. Fabrication time was promised to be six to eight weeks.
“I placed final order around June 11,” county Manager Don Adams said. “I was informed in early August that it would be the end of August.”
A recent update informed him the metal mounting pan to affix the heavy plates to the pedestal will be painted this week.
“So hopefully I can get everything installed in September,” he said.
The changes can’t come soon enough for some who supported the alternative to removing the statue. The alterations are too much for others who wanted nothing done to the monument and are not enough for others who wanted the statue gone.
The monument, which came to be tagged as Sylva Sam, became a hot-button issue during the summer of 2020 sparking marches, debate and clashes over its presence overlooking downtown Sylva.
Protesters trying to spread awareness and spark conversation about systemic racism and the messages such iconography convey wanted the statue moved to a less prominent place or gone altogether. Counter-protesters, who said it was a symbol of heritage, wanted the statue left alone.
County commissioners debated the topic at several meetings before making a decision on the changes.
Sylva town board members twice voted 3-2 on resolutions to demand the statue be moved.
In November, county commissioners came up with what they considered a compromise to cover the flag and its corresponding phrase.
Earlier this year, county commissioners voted on the wording that will appear on the plaques.
The first panel will read: This monument was erected by the citizens of Jackson County in memory of those who died during the American Civil War. Originally dedicated on September 18, 1915. Rededicated on May 11, 1996 to honor Jackson County veterans of all wars.
Two plaques below that will have stars and the phrase E pluribus Unum.
The changes cost the county $11,190 for the plaques and the mounting pans and $1,910 for installation.