Jim Schutze
The city removed Oak Lawn Park's Robert E. Lee statue in September.

City of Dallas Loses Urgency on Campaign to Remove Confederate Statutes and Streets

There's is unlikely to be any more action on Dallas' remaining monuments to the Confederacy until 2018, according to information discussed at the latest Dallas City Council meeting about the city's Confederate totems. Dallas quickly removed Oak Lawn Park's Robert E. Lee statue in September but will deal with the massive Confederate memorial in Pioneer cemetery, as well as several city streets named after Confederate generals, at a slower pace.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday that the city will decide whether to take on the memorial removal and street name change recommendations made by the mayor's Confederate Monuments Task Force after Dallas city staff has been given the opportunity to evaluate the potential costs. Rawlings said he's satisfied so far with the process despite complaints during public forums from those who've felt the city has moved too quickly to get rid of its Confederate markers.

"There is a belief that somehow this process has been a sham," Rawlings said. "I disagree with that. I think that this process has been complete and inclusive."

Rawlings acknowledged that the city moved quickly on the Robert E. Lee statue but said that Dallas needed to do so in order to avoid the types of confrontations seen during debates over Confederate monuments in other cities.

"After Charlottesville, this city was in a precarious situation," Rawlings said. "The great news is that we've pulled together as a city [since the removal of the Lee statue], and we're a safe place."

Again Wednesday, public speakers opposed to removing the monuments outnumbered those who want to see them go. That's been the case at many of the public forums about the monuments since it became clear that the council wanted the statues taken down.

One woman told the council that removing the Confederate statues would lead to the eventual destruction of the United States.

"You have embarked on a cultural suicide mission. You have joined an undercurrent movement to destroy America. Start with the statues and end with the Constitution, the flag and the Bible," Dallas' Jan Howard said.

Mark Arthur
Dallas' Confederate war memorial should be removed, the city's Confederate Monuments Task Force said.

On the council, only Pleasant Grove representative Rickey Callahan spoke strongly in favor of keeping the statues. He pointed to his great-great grandfather, whom he believes died at the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville during the Civil War, as representative of the southern heritage he believes will be forgotten if the statues and monuments come down. 

Stephen Young
The Dallas City Council debates the city's Confederate monuments Wednesday.

Callahan's statements raised a few questions — among them, why did his Confederate ancestor die at a prison camp that held Union soldiers — so the Observer talked to the council member after the meeting. Callahan says that as far as he's been able to determine, his great-great grandfather was a guard at the camp, at which more than 13,000 soldiers died from disease and starvation. Its commandant was the only person hanged for war crimes during the Civil War.

Callahan compared the push to remove the monuments to picking a scab off some of the United States' worst memories.

"We thought that the bones were buried and the memory of that had been pushed to the back recesses of our mind," he said. "Then all [of a] sudden, they're picking at it again."

Callahan said the debate over statues isn't constructive.

"Leave it only 'we don't agree,' and let's go on down the road," he said. "Let's try to rebuild Dallas, make Dallas great. But don't go conjure up the negative past because it doesn't do anything but upset a lot of people. Candidly, I think it was a very big time waste."

Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.

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