Special to SEGAZINE
“That’s a Confederate soldier,” Tommy Benton says, pointing to a new bronze statue on the square in his hometown. Three years ago, the GOP state representative helped raise $50,000 to build it. New confederate monuments are a rarity, he says. “You don’t get many at all because of basically the political climate,” he says.
Benton says it is the same political climate that is forcing the removal of the statue of Tom Watson from the main entrance of the state Capitol. Watson was a turn-of-the-century white supremacist who served in the Georgia legislature and the US Senate.
Benton, a former high school history teacher and onetime Sons of Confederate Veterans commander, laments the statue’s removal.
“I think there’s room for all of it. And just because I disagree with what somebody stood for, doesn’t mean that I would oppose their monument,” Benton said.
Watson’s background as a white supremacist doesn’t disqualify the statue’s placement on the Capitol’s grounds “because of the good things that he did,” Benton said.
Benton smells trouble for other historic figures on the the Capitol grounds. Like General John Gordon, a US Senator and early backer of the Ku Klux Klan; Senator Richard Russell, a powerful US senator who fiercely opposed civil rights legislation; and Eugene Talmadge, elected four times governor of Georgia– and a man whose politics gave chills to the grandmother of Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta).