Georgia courthouse display separates veterans' names into 'white' and 'colored' lists

Saturday, November 11th 2006, 9:59 pm
By: News On 6

BUTLER, Ga. (AP) A display in a central Georgia community divides the names of 800 local veterans into two lists, marked in large type: ``Whites'' and ``Colored.''

The display has been in the lobby of the Taylor County courthouse since 1944, honoring service members who fought in World War II. The two lists are mounted side by side behind glass in two large frames.

John Cole Vodicka, an activist from Americus, is organizing a rally Monday at the courthouse to persuade the county commission to take down the display.

``They can't obviously be proud of the fact that the plaques continue to stay on the wall,'' he said.

In January, the Taylor County Commission unanimously decided to create an ``integrated'' list, with all the names together, along with additional names that weren't in the display designed before the war ended.

But the commission also decided to leave the ``Whites'' and ``Colored'' lists up in the lobby of the building.

``If we erase everything we find offensive or don't like, then it may happen again,'' said Sybil Willingham, chairwoman of the county's Historic Preservation Commission.

``The two existing lists are not to be taken down because it's against the law and it's historic,'' she said, citing a law that makes it unlawful for people to ``mutilate, deface, defile, or abuse'' public monuments honoring service members.

Cole Vodicka said the county could ask for an exemption from the law and move the segregated display to a museum.

``Our position has never been to suppress history,'' he said. ``It is an important part of the Southern history. Our position is the plaques don't belong in a public place.''