Renovation for Confederate Monument

Monday, July 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The cracked and fading Confederate Monument is scheduled for an extensive renovation thanks in part to an unlikely ally — a legislator who fought to remove the Confederate battle flag from atop the Capitol.

Rep. Alvin Holmes was the only black member of the state legislative committee that unanimously approved a contract last week that calls for an architectural firm to assess what needs to be done to restore the towering structure.

``Anything in Alabama that has historic significance should be kept up,'' Holmes said.

Ironically, Holmes was among 14 legislators arrested in 1988 after they tried to scale a fence and remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol dome. Later, he was a leader of a group of black legislators who sued to have it taken down, and it was in 1993.

``Good riddance,'' was what he exclaimed last year when the banner also was removed from within the Alabama House.

Holmes said there is a big difference between flying the battle flag in a prominent place at the Capitol, which appears to give state sanction to the Confederacy, and beside the Confederate Monument in a historical display.

``There are appropriate places for the markers of the Confederacy,'' he said.

The monument was built on the north side of the Capitol as a memorial to soldiers who served in the Civil War. Confederate President Jefferson Davis laid the cornerstone on April 29, 1886, and it was dedicated in 1898.

The granite parts of the monument have numerous cracks, and the bronze portions are showing a century of wear and tear.

``We don't think they are fatal flaws,'' said Lee Warner, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission.

The monument contract approved by the legislative committee calls for the historical commission, which oversees the Capitol, to pay $26,000 for the assessment.

The restoration could cost $400,000 to $500,000, Warner estimated. Warner has about $200,000 in public funds available and hopes to raise the remainder through donations.

``It's long overdue,'' said Christine Smith, former president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who praised Holmes for his vote. ``We all have history and we need to preserve all segments.''

The Confederate flag has been the subject of much debate for decades. Some see it as a reminder of slavery while for others, it's a tribute to Southern heritage.

In South Carolina, the banner was recently taken down from atop the Statehouse dome after months of protest and a tourism boycott by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The flag was moved to a Confederate soldier's monument on Statehouse grounds, which some — including the NAACP — say is still too prominently displayed. The civil rights group has vowed to continue its boycott.


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