A group of supporters and denouncers of the Confederate statue that stands outside the Williamson County courthouse ended up Wednesday agreeing on at least one issue: They were all open to the possibility of adding something to the grounds to honor the history of African Americans in the community.
Rabbi Jonathan Dade of the Messiah Echad congregation in Georgetown suggested a statue similar to one in Barbados of a man breaking free of chains. He said he wanted it elevated to the same height as the statue placed on the courthouse grounds in 1916 by the Daughters of the Confederacy in honor of Confederate soldiers and sailors.
Dade helped co-host the discussion at a Georgetown restaurant with Pastor Kurt Hein from the Light of Christ Anglican Church. Dade and Hein invited two supporters of the Confederate statue and two people opposed to it to the meeting.
Shelby Little, the commander of the Williamson County Grays — a chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy — disagreed with Dade’s idea for another statue. He said anything placed on the courthouse grounds needed to have a direct connection to Williamson County history, such as a statue of the late Dr. James Lee Dickey. Dickey was a black doctor in Taylor who started the first clinic for African Americans in Williamson County in 1935.
Little, who puts on a Confederate soldier uniform and stands by the statue every day in April during Confederate History Month, said the statue is a memorial to veterans, does not mention slavery and should stay on the courthouse grounds.
Jacquita Wilson-Kirby, a black community leader who also was at the discussion, said a statue of Dickey “would not go far enough” because it would not represent all of the African Americans who have been part of the county’s history.
Wilson-Kirby is part of a group that wants to submit an application to the Texas Historical Commission to have a plaque with wording about issues African Americans have faced, including slavery, placed on the courthouse grounds. The commission must approve anything placed on or removed from the courthouse grounds.
One of the participants in the discussion was attorney Robert Ranco, who resigned from his law firm after a firestorm last week following a tweet about U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Ranco said the Confederate statue did “not reflect the values of the Williamson County I know.”
“Just because it’s been here forever, does it mean we keep it here forever?” he asked.
Another discussion participant, Georgetown real estate broker Jeff Parker, said he understood the Confederate statue was offensive to some people but that it should stay because “that’s our history.”
“I struggle with understanding how a statue can impact anyone’s lives long-term,” he said.
Participants also talked about whether Georgetown has a reputation for racism. Dade, who is African American and in an interracial marriage, said someone told him this year at the Georgetown Country Club “interracial couples were despicable.”
“Someone else looked straight at me and said, ‘There’s going to be a hanging,’ ” Dade said.
Parker said Williamson County has an undeserved reputation as a law-and-order county.
“Have you talked to people of color about this issue?” Wilson-Kirby said to him.
“I have not,” said Parker.