Editorial: Tuesday’s ‘Fame’ City Council vote followed decades of discussion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 18, 2020

In an age when information is just a Google search away, our collective memories have become shorter than ever. When it’s easy to look up many facts in an instant, it’s hard to keep track of them or look elsewhere for information that hasn’t made its way online. 

Often, we opt for and form opinions based on information directly in our social media feeds rather than seeking out other information.

The long history of controversy over the location of “Fame” is such an issue. Yet again, Tuesday’s City Council meeting drew passionate debaters about the location, but the discussion that produced a vote to move it was not initially conceived by any current councilman or councilwoman. Instead, the vote marks the beginning of the end of long-running concerns about the location. 

As a 1959 headline in the Post stated, “Storms nothing new to statue.”

More than a decade before that headline, three groups petitioned the Salisbury City Council to relocate the Confederate monument to Christian Reid on West Innes Street and remove grassy medians on East and West Innes streets. Spokespeople for those groups said they made the request in the interest of traffic safety and to promote the growth and expansion of Salisbury. 

The 1948 article said Salisbury businessman Glenn Ketner, who then owned a series of food stores, was chief spokesman for business interests that wanted the grass plots in the middle of Innes Street removed. That was before the founding of Food Lion. Ketner said his intention was not to do away with the monument. Instead, he wanted to improve the location. 

In 1959, the monument’s location was a hot topic again because of its location.

“It looks as if the wounded young warrior is in the most serious danger of his career,” reported a July 1959 Post article. 

But the United Daughters of the Confederacy said “no” because it already had a deed to the property granted by the city. And the 1959 debate produced no relocation. It was a topic again in 1964.

Notably, in 1993, the Confederate monument sustained $1,000 in damage when it was struck by a van driven by a Concord man charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center. Perhaps the traffic safety advocates had a point.

It was three years later when the Post’s Mark Wineka wrote a story with sentences that bear a striking resemblance today’s arguments. 

“Pictures or drawings of the monument appear on T-shirts, mugs, key chains and plates. Expensive jewelry has been fashioned after it. Downtown Salisbury incorporates it into its logo. But not everybody looks at the statue with affection. Not everybody thinks it should stay where it has been for 87 years. To many African-Americans, Salisbury attorney Michael King says, the monument represents a public reminder of a war meant to keep their ancestors enslaved,” Wineka wrote. 

More than 110 years after the monument’s dedication, it appears that the “Fame” Confederate monument may be on the way to its final resting place — a cemetery with Confederate graves on North Lee Street. Tuesday’s vote is the most significant development in the history of “Fame” since its installation, but it’s not the product of an entirely new debate.