During the Union County Commissioners meeting on Monday, March 20, Tony Way, an amateur historian and driven advocate for the monument to commemorate the service of African-Americans during the Civil War, finally got his day before the County Commissioners.
Commissioners Simpson, Rogers and Kuehler voted to support the application to the Union County Historic Preservation Commission seeking the Certificate of Appropriateness for the monument. This formalizes the process and lifts the issue into the open.
I wrote the following story last July for the Union County Weekly.
Quest to honor black Confederate soldiers continues
Civil War buff just wants a vote from Commissioners
For more than a year, Tony Way has sought to memorize the service of African Americans from Union County who served during the Civil War. He was turned down by Union County Historic Preservation Commission, but Way feels he never got a fair vote before the county commissioners.
On May 3, 2010, Mr. Way made a slide presentation before the county commissioners, giving the historical background and outlining the significance the ten Confederate pensioners, who served as guards, cooks and in other field support roles.
“The purpose of the monument or marker is two fold, to recognize the contributions of overlooked African Americans within the Confederate armies during the War between the States, specifically these ten men who were pensioners of our county.” Way said, “Number two, to recognize the need that the history of Union County be all inclusive.”
“The current Confederate monument does not effectively do this in the cases of these men.” Way said, “This monument will represent hundreds of other nameless veterans of color.”
Mr. Way’s proposal is to place a four foot square granite marker in the brick sidewalk before the current Confederate Monument, located at the Old Courthouse in Monroe. The names of the ten black veterans would be listed on the plaque.
Way provided documentation on the service history and research for each pensioner, in addition to a mock-up of the proposed plaque.
On the advise of the staff attorney, Jeff Crook, Commissioner Allan Baucom made the motion to refer the question of the monument to the HPC; the vote was unanimous.
Five months later, Way received a letter from then interim County Manager Wes Baker, who wrote to say that the Historic Preservation Commission had completed an informal review of his proposal on Sept. 7, 2010, but for reason outlined in the letter, “the staff regrettably will be unable to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the County seek a certificate of appropriateness for the monument on the grounds of the Historic Courthouse.”
“The Historic Preservation Commission indicated that there was already a Confederate monument to honor Union County residents who died in the Civil War. “ Baker stated, “Individual’s names that appear on the various war monuments/memorials located at the Historic Courthouse have been limited to those soldiers who died in service to their country.
According to Baker, the HPC did offer Mr. Way an alternative, “to memorialize these ten Confederate Pensioners of Color would be in a room dedicated to the Civil War and its role in Union County history, [a] room is proposed for the future museum in the Historic Courthouse.”
Way feels that Preservation Commission members did not give the proposal a fair hearing. “I feel that is would be a shame and do a disservice to memory of these men, not to do something” Way said, “I keep trying to explain to them [the HPC] that these ten people were different, nine of them were slaves”.
Way hopes to bring the issue before the current commissioners, sometime in the fall. “I spoke to [Commissioner] Jonathan Thomas” Way said, “he was very support of the idea.”