The Confederate Statue Compromise of Dalton, Ga.

by Donald Smith

There are good ways and bad ways to handle controversial statues and memorials. These excerpts from a press release demonstrate one of the good ways. The press release describes how Dalton, Georgia, relocated a statue of a Confederate general, and did it in a way that fostered cooperation within the community. (All emphasis is added).

On July 8, 2020, following 30 days of several marches and demonstrations, a town hall meeting in which a number of persons spoke to the Council of Dalton about the removal of the Joseph E. Johnston Statue from public property, a Facebook petition to move the statue and another Facebook petition to not move the statue, the City of Dalton notified the local Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (hereinafter “UDC”) that the UDC needed to make arrangements to move the statue as any permissive easement to allow its continued placement on the public right of way of the intersection of Crawford and Hamilton Streets were no longer permitted. The City of Dalton gave the UDC a reasonable time period within which to arrange to move the statue.

The UDC expressed last summer that it was ready and willing to move the statue provided that a suitable location could be found AND provided that funds sufficient to safely handle the move could be secured as the UDC did not have any money to be able to do so. … Members of the community at large including some of the original marchers volunteered to raise funds to pay for the move.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia which took no position on the subject of whether to move the statue or not to move it, offered to serve as a conduit, or bank, to facilitate the anonymous donations required for the move.…

The Huff House, owned by the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, Inc. (hereinafter “Historical Society”) became the logical and best solution in which the UDC found themselves and the Board of Trustees of the Historical Society graciously voted and agreed to host the statue and give a lease to the UDC to relocate the statue. Security cameras covering the statue would need to be acquired and installed.

One point that needs to be made very clear …  No one involved in this process has intimated or attempted to tear down or destroy the statue or the history of it.  That group simply wanted it moved from a public property and were willing to pay for its relocation.

The historic Huff House was in fact the headquarters of General Joseph E. Johnston during the Confederate Army of Tennessee’s winter encampment in Dalton for about six months from December 1863 to May 1864.  It is a logical place for the statue where the history of the man, the statue and the house may all be interpreted and visited.

The location of the placement of the statue is significant and was chosen for several reasons.  It will be placed on Hawthorne Street facing north which is symbolic of him facing north toward his former enemy.  By placing the statue in this location, the Huff House may be viewed and enjoyed from the Selvidge Street, or west side, without the statue being in the viewshed of the house such that the house may be studied and enjoyed separately from the statue.  Conversely, the statue may also be viewed, studied and enjoyed separately from the house and opportunities for photos of either historic site can be had separately.  It allows each of the two sites to continue to have their own separate identities and prominence, while still being available to view and enjoy in one location. Additionally, the new location will better insure its safekeeping with additional security measures of a fence, lighting, and security cameras.…

We provide this press release so that everyone can see both the circumstances and the process for how this project came together.  In many communities across our country, unfortunately, similar circumstances have led to violence, bloodshed, vandalism and destruction of people, property, businesses, and statues. In Dalton, however, the various parties have worked together to find and to carry out a good solution. We hope that the new location of the statue will lead to greater interest to and support of the Huff House and our new partners in the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, Inc. as they strive to preserve all of our area’s rich history.

Submitted on behalf of my client for immediate release.

Robert D. Jenkins, Sr.
Dalton, GA

A copy of the full press release can be viewed here. The Dalton Daily Citizen also carried an edited version of the release.

We Virginians (and Americans) should expect that the current custodians of the Confederate statues that once stood in Richmond (and elsewhere) follow the example of the good citizens of Dalton — or, explain to the public in a clear and convincing way why they can’t (or won’t).  

Donald Smith was raised in Richmond. His mother was born in a house not far from VMI, and family members still live there.