Confederate Soldiers Have A Place In Jonesborough Memorial

By George Jackson
Reporter-Producer / News Channel 11
Published: June 9, 2009

Jonesborough, Tenn.—Last month, Tennessee’s oldest town celebrated the near-completion of Veterans Park.

To Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Marion Light, Memorial Day Weekend was a dream come true.

“It has been a labor of love and a lot of time,“ Light said.

The park includes hundred of bricks, all placed to honor fallen veterans from Washington County—but the collection of names etched in granite did not include confederate soldiers.  That changed Monday night when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted them in.

Light said the park was intended for U.S., not confederate soldiers.

“We’re not trying to discriminate,“ he said.  “We were just trying to honor the people who held this country together.“

An organization called the ‘Sons of Confederate Veterans’ thinks both groups are one in the same.

“It was their sons that went on to fight in World War I, their grandsons went on to fight in World War II,“ Brigade Commander David Roberts said.  “We’re as American as anybody else and we want our place in history.  We don’t want it covered up.“

Roberts said federal law provides equal rights to the confederate soldier.

According to the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Government denied benefits to Confederate soldiers until 1958.  That year, Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower pardoned the entire group—when they pensioned 80 year-old Minnie Cave, the last living confederate widow.

Jonesborough Town Attorney James Wheeler looked into the issue’s legal background.  Monday night, he presented that research (and the following conclusion) to the board.

“All authority cited to me or found by me is persuasive rather than controlling on this issue,“ Wheeler said.  “In other words, this is a decision for the town of Jonesborough as the owner of the park to make.“

The board made that decision immediately—and voted unanimously in favor of including confederate soldiers.

It remains unclear whether or not that vote will incite Light’s resignation from the V.A. Committee.

“I plan to get this {project} finished,“ he said.  “Then I’ll look at what the town has required.  But, I want to finish what we’ve got started first.“

Light suspended brick orders last Monday in anticipation of this ruling.  He said the town has 1,400 bricks left to lay.

Wheeler said the V.A. Committee will decide how markers for Washington County’s confederate soldiers will be incorporated.

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