Bipartisan duo proposes compromise on Civil War symbols after ‘go missing’ warning sparks controversy

State Rep. Jason Spencer and former state Rep. LaDawn Jones discuss their proposal for Civil War monuments. AJC/Ryon Horne

The bipartisan duo behind a racially-charged Facebook exchange about the debate over removing some of Georgia’s most prominent Civil War monuments have reached a compromise over how to handle the divisive symbols. And now they hope lawmakers can rally behind their plan.

Republican state Rep. Jason Spencer of Woodbine and former state Rep. LaDawn Jones, a Democrat from Atlanta, had a lengthy sit-down discussion on Wednesday about their social media back-and-forth that went viral.

In that exchange, Spencer warned Jones she could “go missing” in the Okefenokee Swamp if she continues to call for the removal of statues in South Georgia. “Too many necks they are red around here,” he wrote. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.”

Our AJC colleague Ernie Suggs will have more on this later, and you can find the Facebook Live of their conversation in this post.

One of the biggest takeaways, however, was a legislative proposal that Spencer intends to push during next year’s session. Neither was supportive of every word in that measure, but both said they were satisfied with the deal they brokered – and hopeful it could gain bipartisan support.

Their proposal would allow local communities to decide whether Civil War monuments should remain on their grounds, overhauling a provision in state law that makes it illegal to “relocate, remove, conceal or obscure” any Confederate memorial.

It also would set up Stone Mountain, the sprawling state-owned granite monument to the Confederate war dead, as a repository for Civil War statues that communities decide they don’t want.

The measure overhauls a 2001 law adopted as part of a compromise aimed at removing the Rebel emblem that protects the Civil War monuments across the state — there are at least 170 of them by some counts — from being removed.

It also would declare Stone Mountain a “historical memorial to Georgia’s role during the Civil War era,” excising the previous reference in state law to the site as a “Confederate memorial.”

And it would add new protections for the three Confederate war heroes enshrined on the mountain’s face from being “destroyed, defaced, demolished” – an apparent response to the calls by Stacey Abrams, a former state House leader who is running for governor, to change the law and erase the carving from the site.

Spencer’s influence is limited in the Georgia House. He doesn’t chair any committees and was forced to abandon a bill last year that would have barred women from wearing a burqa or veil when posing for a photo on their Georgia driver’s license.

But the overall idea could gain traction, particularly as Georgia attempts to lure Amazon’s second headquarters and other big economic development deals.

House Speaker David Ralston earlier said through a spokesman that he’s planning a “thorough, reasonable and civil dialogue” next year. And Gov. Nathan Deal said in a recent interview he expects lawmakers to take a “serious look” at how to handle monuments, memorials and street signs commemorating the Confederacy.

“I think they will do a pretty in-depth look into whether or not we should continue to restrict local jurisdictions — counties and cities — in terms of what they may want to consider in their areas,” Deal said.

Keep reading: Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Rebel monuments

Reader Comments 0

31 comments
patr1c1a
patr1c1a

I am the proud great grandma of a bi-racial family.  I was raised in the south and went to school with African Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Spaniards.  I don't see color in people until they put it in my face.  I approach everyone I meet halfway.  If they expect me to bend over and kiss their a$$, I don't need them for a friend.  One specific ethnic group feels like we should remove all of our confederate memorials.  In the August 16th edition of the AJC they had an article named "At least 109 schools named after Confederate figures, study says".  I only surfed the web for a few minutes and found 107 HBCUs, 116 schools named after Martin Luther King, 25 named after Booker T. Washington and 7 named after Malcolm X, etc.  So as a solution, why don't we just put all of those "offensive" confederate memorials in a museum somewhere and erase the Civil War in the classroom textbooks.  It wouldn't be the first time history was erased in our children's textbooks without any tax-paying voter ever being asked.  In this way, we can conclude since there was no civil war, there was no slavery.  And we can go on living until the African Americans find the next thing that is offensive to them. Personally, I feel history cannot be reversed, a bell cannot be un-rung, a word cannot be unspoken and a stone cannot be un-thrown!  Who is so dense to think otherwise!  "Rewriting history" according to the contemporary wants and prejudice of tiny groups of fanatics, of small pods of people who can't compete, of a few control freaks or of a little cluster of haters who desire to change the type of our current government transcends dumb; it is categorically stupid and must not be allowed.









Patty1031
Patty1031

I am puzzled by the comments here that equate removal of Confederate monuments with "erasing our culture."  Are the only things defining southern culture slavery and rebellion against the United States?  As someone who has lived in Georgia a mere 47 years, I would love to learn.

gobobesit
gobobesit

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mgunter
mgunter

I have never ever considered myself a racist. I hav many Black friends. But this issue has really irritated me.

We cannot erase history. Both sides had great brave leaders who should have been recognized.

I'm a proud Southerner and am offended by Black race baiters. Why don't they protest Black on Black crime in Chicago or th complete breakdown of th family structure in inner cities or th large number of unwed mothers getting pregnant ?

Whole lot more pressing issues than Statues!!!!

gemmy19
gemmy19

@mgunter  When you preface a statement by saying you have Black friends but then bring up Black on Black crime. it makes me wonder why you haven't asked your "Black friends" that question.  The white race is facing a lot of drug issues and your people are dying at high rates everyday from overdoses.  That doesn't sound like great family values to me since you are questioning Black family values.  All the Black people I know are in a healthy family relationships and have been married for years or own their own homes, have great jobs.  Why do you whites seem to want to lump all Black people together.  Are whites not having children out of wedlock?  You are a bonafide hypocrite.

fairviewfarm
fairviewfarm

Tell me this:  Obama sat in the Presidential office for two terms.  During that time, there was virtually NO protest about Civil War statues.  What has changed?

And if you want to tear down Civil War memorabilia because of what that did to our country, shouldn't we also remove mosques because of 9/11?  Hypocrisy masquerading as protest!

gemmy19
gemmy19

@fairviewfarm  We didn't have a president that thought that white supremacists were good people either so there was no need.  When all those different gangs of white power marched and protested in Charlottesville about the Confederate and their intention is to bring back the past....then something has to be done.  You president has now put racism in the WH and we will not tolerate that since the WH was built by slaves...We won't be slaves or oppressed again to that extent.

WDE
WDE

Get help

gemmy19
gemmy19

@WDE  You need help since you are an idiot like your president.

larryhand
larryhand

Scots are allowed to still be Scots. Irish, ditto. Welsh, ditto. But U.S. Southerners, if they know what's good for them, had better forget to be Southern. Or Rebel. Or to use words like Dixie. The AJC once bragged that it "Covers Dixie like the Dew," pretending to be a proud Southern newspaper. Now they must be ashamed. A culture is disappearing, not a culture of hate, but one threatened by hate. We are who we are. Southern. The symbols being removed aren't just iron or ink or fabric, but identification. We are Rebels, fighting and dying now for the Union for a century and a half, yes. But still Rebels. Still Dixie. Still Southern. And always will be.

gemmy19
gemmy19

Big F'N deal. What's so great about being a southerner? Besides a stupid moronic behavior and looking like one? I was born in the south but don't consider myself one. Why don't you thy to widen your horizon and grow up. You sound like a teenager...

8kentucky13
8kentucky13

@gemmy19  Careful.  You're setting yourself up.  Watch your mouth, too. 

ddooley
ddooley

I will oppose this legislation...Just because Rep. Spencer put his foot in his mouth, doesn't mean the monuments need to be sacrificed...

atlnativecarol
atlnativecarol

Hooray for the work these two have done. As a 66 year old white native Georgian I was only taught a glorified history of the Confederacy in school. I had to become a history major in college to learn about the rest of it, the "Black history" as a commenter stated.

These two histories happened at the same time and are part of the same story. Both need to be told TOGETHER. Otherwise it's not an accurate portrayal of the history of Georgia. That is the vision I hear in Ms. Jones's comments about the true historical monument that Stone Mountain can become.

Just as Atlanta's white leaders during the Civil Rights movement consciously worked to assure Atlanta responded to the movement with a more forward looking vision, Georgia can lead the way now. By preserving a complete and accurate history of the Civil War at Stone Mountain that presents the ENTIRE history, I believe we can more forward with a better understanding of different perspectives and less divisiveness.

gemmy19
gemmy19

Thank you. You sound like an intelligent and reasonable "southerner".

Brownie35
Brownie35

We have a lot more serious problems in Georgia and the United States than worrying about what monument is where. Let's work together to solve some real problems.

Georgia-Native
Georgia-Native

That doesn't sound like anything that would be acceptable. Perhaps we should stop trying to erase Southern Heritage and history all together. How would these people respond if we wanted to remove Black History?

gemmy19
gemmy19

@Georgia-Native  You have practically already removed Black history.  It is only for one month out of a year.  You whites have it year after year.

WDE
WDE

Gemmy dear I think your rasism is showing just a little bit.

gemmy19
gemmy19

@WDE  You are the racist one if you believe differently.

nativegirl58
nativegirl58

Washington should take a lesson from these two on how to listen to and respect legislators on the other side. They couldn’t have had more polar opposite views, but they valued the public interest more than their egos and worked together to compromise and move forward.

Ken430TX
Ken430TX

Who is going to pay to move all these statues to Stone Mountain and have them installed there?

billdyson
billdyson

..."Woodbine warned Jones..." You folks need to hire a proofreader!!!

CindyLou518
CindyLou518

Blown away by the civility and compromise of this proposal.  Kudos to all involved.  Truly an inspiration to see this bipartisan, multi-racial solution achieved.