By Aila Boyd
The first meeting of the Botetourt County Committee on Monuments and Memorials will be tomorrow, September 10 at 3:30 p.m.
Topics of discussion for the first meeting will include the Confederate monument in front of the Botetourt County Courthouse in Fincastle and a statement of belief for social harmony. The meeting will be held at the Botetourt Education and Training Center in Daleville. It will be open to the public.
The committee, which was formed by the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors in July, is chaired by Steve Clinton, who represents the Amsterdam District on the board.
Clinton said, “My personal hope and goal is that we can arrive at a solution that is acceptable to a majority of citizens in Botetourt County.” He went on to say that he hopes that the solution that the committee comes up with will be supported by history.
The work of the committee will begin with research to help the members better understand the meaning behind Confederate monuments, the history of Reconstruction and Jim Crow Laws, and pride in the Confederacy.
“I hope we can do some research to better understand the history of what we’ll be talking about,” he said. “Even though some of us have a great deal of pride in what the Confederate monuments represent, we don’t really know how they came about and what the sense of the community was at that time.”
In anticipation of the meeting, Clinton sent the following email to committee members:
“Thank you for your willingness to serve on the Botetourt County Committee on Monuments and Memorials. (The committee has been renamed to better reflect our mission. We will discuss the renaming further at our first meeting).
The purpose of this email is to help you prepare for that first meeting.
You are about to undertake a task that has been left unaddressed for 150 years. This committee has the potential to (1) acknowledge the diverse components of our unique Botetourt heritage and (2) provide a platform for a collaborative and constructive future that is still uniquely Botetourt.
Our task will not be without its challenges. Unavoidably, we will touch on sensitive topics.
The proof of our effectiveness and our maturity will be our ability to accommodate opinions that differ from our own – opinions that are strongly held and emotionally expressed. Those opinions are grounded in ancestral histories that are every bit as valid as our own ancestral histories. They all contributed to the building of a unique community that influenced the trajectory of our great nation.
Our task is to research, understand, and appropriately acknowledge those ancestral histories. How did they contribute to our nation’s trajectory? How will succeeding generations build on our diverse legacy to ensure a stronger, “more perfect” future? We will do this collectively, without exclusion and with open minds. Our committee should be directed by our nation’s guiding principle – e pluribus unum.”
Regarding the composition of the committee, Clinton said that he felt it was best to ask various community organizations that had interest in the county’s monuments and memorials to appoint individuals to represent them instead of sending out a broad announcement asking for volunteers.
Those on the committee include:
• Oldfields/Reservoir Road Community: Bill Tanger
• Botetourt County Historical Society and Museum: Beth Leffel
• Botetourt Genealogy Club: Greg Rieley
• Botetourt Artillery: Lewis Sifford
• Historic Fincastle: Mitch and Bobbie Lou Bowman
• Daughters of Confederacy: Harriet Francis
• VFW Posts-Daleville and Buchanan: Bill Price
• Botetourt School Board: Chester Adams
• Town of Fincastle: Pam Binns
• Countywide League: Curtis Brown
• Botetourt County Clerk of Court: Ed McCoy
Clinton noted that whatever solution the committee “comes up with needs to be durable so that future generations can understand why we did what we did.”
As for a timeline for the work of the committee, Clinton said that he hopes the committee will be able to make a recommendation regarding the county’s monuments and memorials to the Board of Supervisors at its December meeting.