Moving a monument: how the Confederate monument eventually moved to Maple Hill Cemetery

The Confederate monument spent more than 100 years around the Madison County Courthouse before it was moved.

Posted: Oct 25, 2020 12:16 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2020 12:20 AM

The Confederate monument in Madison County is now among the dead Confederate soldiers buried at Maple Hill Cemetery.

The relocation of the General John Hunt Morgan statue was something that community activists called for over several months this year. The monument became a focal point of numerous protests following the police killing of George Floyd in May.

The state of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan now resides at Maple Hill Cemetery. The state of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan now resides at Maple Hill Cemetery.

Both the Huntsville City Council and the Madison County Commission signed resolutions calling for the monument to be moved early in the summer. Both bodies said they wanted to find a legal path to move the monument.

The legal hurdle to do so came in the form of the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act (MPA). It states in part that "No architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument which is located on public property and has been so situated for 40 or more years may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, or otherwise disturbed."

The original monument was erected near the old Madison County Courthouse in 1905. It was built the year after a mob of more than 2,000 people lynched Horace Maples on September 7, 1904.

Ten documented lynchings took place in Madison County. The first were of Ben Evans and Ephraim Hall on April 17, 1878, just after the end of Reconstruction, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. The last lynching was that of Herman Deeley on January 18, 1915.

When the current Madison County Courthouse was being built in the mid-60s, the General Morgan part of the statue was damaged and was replaced with a replica. 

Fast forward to 2020 and calls to "Move the Monument" gained new life amid protests for racial justice and police reform.

The Madison County Commission reached out to the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection on June 30 asking for a waiver to relocated the monument. A meeting date was set for July 9 to hear the request.

However, in a response to the application for a waiver, the committee said that the request was "outside the scope of the committee's authority."

Committee Director Steve Murray stated that "Further inquiries regarding the legality of the Madison County Commission's proposed actions should be directed to the Office of the Alabama Attorney General."

WAAY 31 reached out to the Alabama Attorney General's Office multiple times following that response. Each time a spokesperson with the office state that they had not been contacted by the Madison County Commission.

Since the initial waiver request never had an official meeting, Commissioner JesHenry Malone argued in a statement that that triggered an opportunity in law.

Another part of the 2017 statute states:

"If the committee fails to act on a completed application for a waiver within 90 days after the application is submitted to the committee, the waiver shall be deemed granted."

That justification was enough for the commission to move forward and bring the statue of General Morgan to its new home: among the headstones of the Confederate soldiers at Maple Hill Cemetery. 

A spokesperson with the Alabama Attorney General's Office said on Friday that they will review the actions of the commission to determine if there was a violation of the MPA. It's not clear how long that review process might take.

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