This is an email from my friend Jimmy Shirley. Jimmy is on the front lines of these Confederate issues day in and day out. I ask you to support, any way you can, Jimmy and the many other people who fight these battles everyday.
Not my first dance with the PBPost.
I am barely quoted after nearly 45 minutes on the phone, quoted not in sequence and certainly not in context.
Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.
Here we go again
NEW: Confederate statue in public cemetery sparks debate in West Palm
Paige Fry Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
1:43 p.m Tuesday, June 13, 2017 Local News
This monument bearing the Confederate flag is near the front entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)
WEST PALM BEACH
As pieces of history honoring the Confederacy fall from city to city, the mayor of West Palm Beach has one monument left that honors the rebel army’s veterans in her city. It’s been there since 1941, but as markers to the Confederacy fall in other cities, its presence is sparking new debate.
Standing directly behind the American flag, the 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn Cemetery. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Some recognize the monument as a piece of history that honors the buried veterans. Others call it a racist tribute and demand its removal.
“My preference would be that the monument just disappears,” Muoio said. “I think the history that it stands for is racism.”
Cemetery marks its own history: 100 years owned by West Palm Beach
Florida was pro-South in the Civil War and the third state to secede. After the war, the bankrupt state started to attract migration through tourism, which is why it’s common to find Union and Confederate veterans buried at places like Woodlawn.
The Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s website lists more than 20 veterans of the war buried at Woodlawn. Debi Murray, the society’s chief curator, said some remains from Pioneer Cemetery, which used to be across Dixie Highway from Woodlawn, were relocated to the newer cemetery after it opened in 1904, and Civil War veterans who died after that year also were buried there.
Yet blacks weren’t allowed to be buried in the cemetery until 1966, when under pressure the City Commission approved it. Under that rule, 69 white victims of the 1928 hurricane were buried at Woodlawn while 674 black victims were anonymously dumped into a mass grave at 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue.
The issue of the Woodlawn monument to the Confederacy rose again in May. A 116-year-old monument of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis was taken down in New Orleans on May 11. It was the second statue of the kind in that city to removed this year.
On May 22, less than two weeks after the New Orleans monument fell, William McCray, who is known for his passionate appeals to city commissioners for racial equality and his past lawsuits against the city, demanded for the removal of his city’s own monument.
“Woodlawn Cemetery, that’s where you bury white people. They wouldn’t even sell caskets to black people,” McCray said at the meeting. “And it hasn’t been that long ago.”
McCray said it was disgraceful that West Palm Beach officials won’t take down their own “vestiges of racism and discrimination and hatred” while white officials in North Carolina and the mayor of New Orleans are striking down their own.
“Other places in the heart of Dixie have more courage and fortitude than any of you,” he said.
Muoio responded to McCray saying that he forgot the city took down all the Confederate flags in the area several years, and the city hasn’t been able to take the monument down yet because it’s not owned by the city.
During an interview with The Palm Beach Post on Friday, Muoio said the city has been trying to contact the United Daughters of The Confederacy to have them remove the monument from the cemetery, which is public property. The city’s law department has also been investigating if the city can tell them to move the monument.
She said she only heard positive responses when she removed all Confederate flags on city public property.
Jimmy Shirley of Palm Springs, camp commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1599, said he’s angry the mayor is considering taking down the monument and that she should back off. It’s in a cemetery, not in front of the courthouse, he said.
“This honors the men who were buried there,” he said. “It’s where it’s supposed to be.”
Shirley said even though the cemetery is technically public, people buy plots on the land. He said the Confederate’s history deserves to be told along with the Union’s side. Children should know fully about the American Civil War to understand the foundations of the country, so to take down the monument would be misguided and wrong, he said.
“History can’t be erased, but it can be hidden,” he said.