County discusses moving momument

WINNSBORO – Efforts to potentially relocate Winnsboro’s Confederate monument is unlikely until at least 2021, according to Fairfield County officials.

Fairfield County Council discussed, but took no action on a request from the Town of Winnsboro to relocate the town’s Confederate monument from its current location at the Mt. Zion Institute grounds to the Fairfield County museum.

A confederate monument stands on the edge of the Mt. Zion Institute property. | Barbara Ball

County leaders cited the S.C. Heritage Act, which prohibits governmental agencies from removing Confederate and other war memorials from public property. A two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate is required to override this requirement.

“I don’t think there’s any action that can be taken by this council at this time,” said county attorney Tommy Morgan. “The town has brought this to the council’s attention, but there’s nothing that can be done.”

The Winnsboro monument depicts a Confederate soldier and his rifle atop an obelisk near the corner of Hudson and Zion streets in Winnsboro.

It was relocated from Congress Street to the school campus in the 1960s after a street widening project in town, according to the S.C. Picture Project, a non-profit that maintains an online database of historically significant landmarks.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said it was the town that initiated the request to the county to relocate the monument. That request was made following a guest editorial published on June 25, in The Voice by Fairfield County NAACP President Jennifer Jenkins calling for the removal of the monument from the grounds of the former Mount Zion School.

During the July town council meeting, Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy said the town is merely exploring options.

“We’re not moving it [right now],” Gaddy said. “We’re just exploring our different options and how to legally apply those options. We’re not going to do anything illegal.”

Fairfield County Councilman Moses Bell asked if the county’s legislative delegation would be able to request to move the monument.

Morgan said the delegation lacks that authority. He said the town’s request is contingent upon any potential revisions to the Heritage Act.

Bills to that effect have been filed in the General Assembly. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a limited number of items are likely to be taken up this year, meaning it will likely be at least 2021 before bills addressing the Heritage Act are taken up, Morgan said.

Bell said that he’s “very appreciative that the Town of Winnsboro looked at this and saw the harm that it’s doing to the community by the confederate monument being directly in front of where we’re going to have the new administration building.”

Councilman Douglas Pauley thought moving the monument should be the town’s responsibility, not the county’s.

“This monument has always been in the Town of Winnsboro’s jurisdiction and they’re responsible for it. I don’t see the need for them to want to give it to us and for us to accept the monument and put it on a piece of county property,” Pauley said. “If the heritage act is approved, they can find a more suitable location that they own instead of it being on a piece of county property.”

Adopted in 2000, the Heritage Act protects most monuments. In part it reads:

“No Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Native American, or African-American History monuments or memorials erected on public property of the State or any of its political subdivisions may be relocated, removed, disturbed, or altered.”