Capitol Plans Shouted Down
- << Capitol plans shouted down
By Mike Cason
Plans to reshape the grounds of the State Capitol met stiff opposition
heritage enthusiasts during a public hearing Monday night in the Capitol
The Alabama Historical Commission held the forum for public input on
plans to use about $6
million in federal funds to lessen the slope leading up to the entrance,
plant trees, replace
parking places with more green space and narrow Dexter Avenue's approach
to the Capitol.
Shouts of "send back the federal money" rang out from the crowd that
packed the auditorium.
Many said a statue of Jefferson Davis should not be moved and more money
should be used for
restoring the Confederate Memorial on the Capitol's north lawn. They
also generally objected
to any new monuments commemorating the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights
march of 1965.
"If you really want to beautify the Capitol, put the flag back on the
dome," said Robert
Powell of Montgomery, referring to the Confederate battle flag that was
removed in the early
1990s. Powell's statement drew thunderous applause.
Others lined up at the microphone to speak. Almost all opposed the
Lee Warner, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission,
presided over the forum
and presented slides showing proposed plans. He said the slides
represented a concept but
that no plans were final. He said no decision had been made on moving
the Jefferson Davis
statue or others.
"We want participation in these decisions," Warner said.
The Capitol is recognized as a national historic building for its role
as the birthplace of
the Confederacy. Allen Cronenberg, chairman of the Historical
Commission, said there are also
plans to recognize the Capitol for being the site where the voting
rights march ended.
That idea drew heated opposition.
Leonard Wilson of Jasper brought a 1965 copy of Ebony magazine with
photographs that he said
proved the march did not reach the Capitol, only the area in front of
Avery Hudson, division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
said it would be
historically wrong to portray the march as ending at the Capitol.
"I don't see how you can take tax dollars and reinvent it when it's
Only a few blacks were in the crowd, which at its peak probably numbered
more than 200.
Nathan Riley was the only black who spoke during the first two hours of
the forum. Riley is
director of the National Historic Trail Foundation, which is at work on
"The Civil War was an institution that was necessary at its time," Riley
said. "The civil
rights movement was also necessary during its time."
Riley said both should be recognized at the Capitol, partly because they
would be a good
Birmingham pastor Charles Baker said the march did not compare in
historical signifigance to
the founding of the Confederacy.
"We're comparing the great forming of a nation to a march," Baker said.
Many in the crowd objecting to any changes that would affect the
"hallowed ground" where
Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy in 1861.
"That's sacred soil to us," said Ellen Williams, a retired school
teacher from Washington