‘Time to have cool heads,’ mayor says after vandalism of Confederate monument

Published 12:10 am Sunday, August 19, 2018

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Salisbury Police were called to the corner of Church and West Innes streets early Saturday morning after it was discovered that someone covered “Fame,” the Confederate monument in what appeared to be white paint.

The statue, which depicts an angel holding a fallen soldier, carrying a broken gun, has since been cleaned. The vandalism was noticed around 2 a.m. and officers responded to the area.

“While the statue is not owned or maintained by the City of Salisbury, our department is currently investigating this incident as an act of vandalism or criminal damage to property,” Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said.

Stokes said he cannot provide additional information as this is an ongoing investigation.

The 109-year-old statue was dedicated on May 10, 1909 to the 2,500 Rowan County soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Frederic Wellington Ruckstuhl, the sculptor, created two pieces, one presented to the people of Rowan County and the other to the people of Baltimore.

The Salisbury monument was cast in Brussels, Belgium, at the H. Luppens & Co. Foundry. It stands about 23 feet tall, from the bottom of the base to the tip of Fame’s wings. The statue arrived in Salisbury in 1905, but it apparently was stored until all the money was raised and the formal dedication could be held in 1909. The statue cost $10,000.

In 1908, the monument, including the small area of land it sits on, was deeded to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The statue and land still belong to the organization.

Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins confirmed a group of volunteers cleaned up the statue. Heggins said she met with the volunteers and she reached out to City Manager Lane Bailey to see about blocking off the road for safety while it was being cleaned.

“I want to say let’s be careful how we frame this conversation in the community to our friends and neighbors. We don’t know who did what,” Heggins said.

She said everyone should be careful in saying this was an act that grew from prejudice.

“It could be people trying to cause issues in our community because they can. We don’t know if it’s internal or external,” she said.

“We live in a time in which race is still incendiary and people who want to get something started and get it started quickly will hit the race button. This is the time to have cool heads and a time to be very mindful,” Heggins said.

Heggins said some reactions she received after hearing the news of the vandalism were from people who were unhappy and very concerned.

“People want to make sure we keep our community intact,” she said.

When asked how the community can pick up the pieces, Heggins said, “we pick up the pieces by doing the work that is necessary; to dismantle institutional and structural racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. Until we begin to really deal with our unconscious bias and prejudice the pieces will never get picked up.”

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.