I-35 billboard calls for Confederate monument removal in Williamson County

Williamson County

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Drivers may notice a message directed at Williamson County leaders to remove a contentious statue the next time they’re passing through Georgetown on Interstate 35.

A billboard went up Tuesday with a demand from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that reads, “REMOVE the Confederate monument from our Square.” The monument in question sits in front of one of the entrances to the historic Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown.

The billboard, which is located just south of Leander Road on the east side of I-35, also directs people to a website for the Wilco Patriots, a local group that began working a couple of years ago to pressure county leaders to take down the statue. That local activism is what ultimately led the SPLC to buy the billboard space in Georgetown for the next month, Lecia Brooks explained.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center really wanted to lend our support to the Wilco Patriots group,” Brooks, the SPLC’s chief of staff, said.

The Wilco Patriots shared a photo of the billboard on their Twitter account and thanked the SPLC for its support.

Brooks said her organization launched a billboard campaign to put up similar messages in other communities across the country as a way to amplify their shared goal of taking down any public tributes to the Confederacy.

“We do not honor those who fought on the side of the Confederacy,” she said. “We have to remember that those who fought on the side of the Confederacy stood against the United States and of course fought to continue the very inhumane system of chattel slavery.”

When asked Wednesday about the possibility of removing the statue, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell wrote in a statement, “In Williamson County, we continue to listen to the needs and requests of the residents. In this matter, Williamson County is still listening.”

Confederate statue located outside of courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
Confederate statue located outside of Georgetown courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

The billboard in Georgetown went up a day before the country’s largest Confederate monument came down in Richmond, Virginia. Crews removed a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee from its granite pedestal along Monument Avenue, which drew cheers from a crowd who gathered to watch the removal. Brooks said these two things happening more than a thousand miles apart almost simultaneously are connected.

“This is one of the hugest symbols to white supremacy that exists in the United States,” Brooks said about the Richmond statue, “and we think it’s a great day that it was taken down and really speaks to the ongoing power of this movement to remove Confederate monuments.”

The stone statue in Williamson County features a man carrying a gun with the following inscription: “In memory of the Confederate soldiers & sailors.” The monument draws support from those who argue it honors their ancestors and history.

Confederate statue located outside of Georgetown courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
Confederate statue located outside of Georgetown courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

However, Brooks points out this particular statue went up in 1916, which is 51 years after the end of the Civil War. The intent for building it decades later, she said, is clear.

“This monument was not erected to honor the war dead,” she said. “It was erected to advance what is known as the ‘lost cause.’ The ‘lost cause’ is a false retelling of history that seeks to romanticize the Confederacy’s participation in the Civil War to assert that they fought for anything other than the continued enslavement of Black people.”

Confederate statue located outside of Georgetown courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
Confederate statue located outside of Georgetown courthouse. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

According to its own count, the SPLC reported that Texas removed 12 Confederate symbols last year. During that same period in 2020, the SPLC cataloged 71 removals in Virginia, 23 in North Carolina and 12 in Alabama.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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