From January 1991 until January 2007, I was honored to serve the citizens of Marshall County as first a district and then a circuit judge in the courthouses of both Guntersville and Albertville.
As such, I was one of those charged with both the perception and the application of equal justice under the law in this county. During my later years in office, the monument in dispute was placed on the courthouse lawn over my objection, and, after my retirement, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (recognized now as the Confederate flag by many) was placed on a flagpole erected for that purpose.
I understand and appreciate there are those who believe that flag and what it stands for is their heritage. I support their right to fly that flag—just not on courthouse grounds. Chairman Hutcheson is a proud Marine Corps veteran, and I would have hoped he would have taken the position that the Corps took as to that flag, which is “the Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps.”
As a result of that finding, the Marines have banned the flag from their installations. Gen. Robert E. Lee was against erecting monuments, saying we should “follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”
Presently, even NASCAR has banned display of that flag.
Allowing the exaltation of the “heritage” of one segment of Marshall County society to be displayed on public property and not that of others is unacceptable in a society that professes “all men are created equal.”
May any group with a perceived heritage leave a granite memorial on public grounds?
My ancestors have been landowners in this county since the 1850s. My grandmother showed me an area in the county where young men hid out to avoid service in the Confederate army, since we, and they, “did not have a dog in the fight.”
As a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army, that flag does not represent my heritage; or, I would submit, the heritage of a substantial proportion of the population of Marshall County.
To anyone entering the courthouse seeking justice whose heritage is not that represented by the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the prospect of equal justice may be diminished.
This flag and monument should not be allowed to stand. There is a place for such a display, but it is not at the doorsteps of the halls of justice. All of the judges of this county should have been consulted before any such installation. Particularly, the family court judges presiding in the Albertville Courthouse should be consulted about the effect on their workplace environment and the impact this monument and flag have on the families and children that appear in their courtrooms.
Citizens seeking justice at their courthouse should not be left with the perception that the monument and the Confederate flag represents the court’s position.
I do not attribute racist motivations to those in favor of maintaining the flag and monument as is but ask that consideration be given to their fellow citizens who believe that the flag represents adherence to racist principles and that all men are not created equal.
Circuit Judge, Retired 27th Judicial Circuit Guntersville, Alabama