PHOTO: Pastor Kevin Riggs of Franklin Community Church helped put together a plan to get shirts like the one he wore Tuesday night distributed to dozens who donned them to attend the meeting. / Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Franklin’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday night to endorse the placement of historic markers on publicly owned land on town square.
A group of citizens wearing shirts reading “It’s the right thing to do” packed into Franklin’s city hall board room Tuesday night in support of the markers detailing African-American history in the city and region.
On the back, shirts read “I support the www.fullerstory.org.”
An image of a soldier was flanked by an enumeration of the markers, including a United States Colored Troops statue to be erected, the market house near town square where slaves were bought and sold, the 1867 riot and the Reconstruction period.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey said the original proposal had been altered slightly to account for markers to be placed on public property.
Passing the resolution would skirt the legal question the city is currently pursuing to determine ownership of the land on town square park where a Confederate monument stands.
That small circle of land is where the markers were originally planned to be placed.
But at a board meeting last month, attorney Doug Jones, representing the Franklin Chapter #14 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, threatened legal action should the markers be placed on land he insisted belongs to the UDC.
The UDC, which erected the statue at town square in 1899, filed documents of dissolution as an organization in 1990, just six months after becoming an official group.
Last week, Franklin preservationists pushing for the markers met with Jones, who they say was unwilling to budge on his lawsuit.
Comments on the markers
During the work session, head pastor of Gateway Franklin Charlie Weir quoted Winston Churchill: “Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.”
“You are I are not responsible for history, but we are responsible for whether or not history is remembered, which I see as the objective of the ‘fuller story,’” he said.
“I understand the city of Franklin can’t change this, but by erecting these markers, we can influence our future and influence the future of people who come and visit,” Weir continued.
At the meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Bev Burger noted her support for the project, but questioned having markers go outside the Civil War and Reconstruction period, into the Civil Rights movement. “We may have other groups and other people wanting to come in and tell more of the history up to today,” she said.
“That’s not a negative to me, it’s just a concern,” Burger said, noting a desire to focus on what she believed was the original intent of the markers.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Alderman Pearl Bransford. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes that our forefathers did,” to applause from the audience.
Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon suggested the city grant a land deed to the organization responsible for erecting the markers, to avoid further confusion.
“Because as we all now know, that matters,” he said, to murmurs of laughter from those gathered in the room.