Leave C.E. James Monument And Park Alone - And Response (4)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The recent controversy over the monument to our town's founder, C.E. James, is more than a completely unnecessary and avoidable waste of time and possibly money - it is contrived and downright silly. Race-based restrictions on residential real estate sales weren't just common  a century ago, they were universal in both the North and South. Such "red-lining" didn't start to die out until the 1950s. It would have been impossible to create a new town or residential development at the time Signal Mountain was founded without such restrictions.

To condemn Mr. James for the time in which he was born and lived is completely unfair and unreasonable. Remember that at the time, racial segregation in businesses wasn't just a social custom in the South, it was a legal mandate - forced by state law whether business owners wanted an integrated clientele or not.  That is the world Mr. James lived in and had to work in. He didn't create it, he had no choice in it, and he shouldn't be blamed for it. It is completely unfair to judge people of past times by the standards of our own day.    

Furthermore, the monument to Mr. James doesn't commemorate him for being a saint or a warrior for civil rights, and thus isn't false or misleading in any way. It commemorates him for founding Signal Mountain - and for nothing else. Whatever his flaws might have been - and I have no reason to think he was considered bigoted, hateful or racist by the standards of his own time (the only standards by which he can be fairly judged) - he did found our town and deserves his monument  in our town just for that.  Whatever  else he did or failed to do, he founded our town. 

Moving or destroying his monument and renaming James Park would be divisive, misguided, costly and a completely empty gesture amounting to nothing more than than the worst kind of "woke" virtue-signaling. If you want to make a meaningful gesture, you should remember that the greatest monument to Mr. James is the town of Signal Mountain itself. If he is so reprehensible that monuments to him must be destroyed or hidden, then disband the town and make the land unincorporated Hamilton County again. (But then Hamilton County is named after Alexander Hamilton, who signed our Constitution and fought for its passage by helping to write the Federalist Papers. Since the Constitution didn't abolish slavery, I guess we have to rename Hamilton County too, or maybe even disband it and return the land to the Cherokee, if we want to be intellectually consistent rather than rank hypocrites. But, oh no - the Cherokees owned slaves and even fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War! What are we to do?)  

Finally, I am astounded that our town manager even brought this up. The fact that he would create out of thin air an issue that so divides our town shows an appalling lack of judgment, a complete ignorance of history, malicious intent or some combination of all three. I don't know Mr. Veal and I certainly don't know what is wrong with him - but something is so seriously wrong that he should be fired. Talk about creating a mountain out of a molehill - and it's a mountain of toxic waste at that. 

Do the right thing and leave Mr. James' monument and park alone. 

Andy Walker 

* * *

The monument seekers are at it again.
 
A race provision in an historic deed is common.  I was employed, at a time, to acquire historic deeds for public infrastructure land acquisition. Unjust race provisions are common language in old deeds. My family owns a 1950’s home with an historic deed containing a race restriction.
 
Must we cancel the entire life’s work of our community founders, because of an historic deed restriction?   
 
Further, are the monument seekers suggesting that C. E. James wrote the provision contained in the deed? I can assure you, that is highly unlikely.  Deeds were written by surveyors and attorneys, as they are now. 
 
Anyone from Chattanooga knows that the James Building was built by the family of Stuart James.   We all know who is Stuart James is, and that the James family has local historic fame.
 
It must be horrific to pick up the newspaper and read disparaging racist charges against your family members, deceased or not, when you know the person’s life work was so much bigger than boiler plate deed language from days gone by.
 
Stuart James is a justice warrior. To attempt to paint the ancestors of Stuart James as racist is simply wrong.  
 
The motives from the monument seekers are very questionable. It would have been a reasonable courtesy to consult with the James family before such a measure was raised in removing the C. E. James monument and park name.
 
Stripping Hamilton County of historic monuments is injustice. The state of Tennessee Historical Commission needs to intervene, and examine in detail the motivations for removing yet another historic monument.  I don’t believe that historic monuments can be removed without approval of the Historic Commission for the state
 
I am sorry that the James family is enduring pervasive untruths about C. E. James.  A deed, indeed.
 
April Eidson

* * *

Dear Sir: 

I agree that the recent flap concerning Hon. C.E. James is much ado about nothing.  The times in which Mr. James lived and in which he wrote his race-based restrictive covenants were far different from our world of today. So much progress has been made.  In fact, Signal Mountain is now only 98.2 percent white, a far cry from that of yesteryear.  Alas, our little bastion of diversity is still the whitest town in Tennessee.....


Renee H McLaughlin, MD

* * *

From my earliest memories is seeing the “man in the rock”, Charlie James, it gave me great pride to know that Charles E. James was my great-great-grandmother’s, Rachel Vincent James Divine, double, yes double first cousin. Charlie James and John L. Divine were men of great foresight and saw the possibilities of Chattanooga and the surrounding communities. These men were risk takers and men of great honor and integrity.

The Decosimo Family is proud of our connection to such a great man as Charlie James and stand with Stuart and his siblings and family in saying, “Enough is enough.” Stop the incessant down grading of the people who founded this nation and this community.

You may wonder, what kind of person knows who his great-great-grandmother was or who her cousin was. We were taught from the earliest age the people from whom we descend so we would be inspired by their contributions and know that giving back to our community is a duty.

Thank you, Stuart, and know the Decosimo family stands proudly with the James family in honoring the enormous contributions made by Charles E. James.

Tom Decosimo

* * *

After reading the article on removing the statue on Signal Mountain, I feel I need to offer my opinion.  I am a teacher in Hamilton County and it makes me very sad that all of a sudden society wants to erase our country's history.  We need to just accept that when our country, as well as Signal Mountain were founded that it was a very different time and things were very different as far as how people were treated.  I know that racism still exists, but removing statues isn't the answer to changing this.  It is the heart and attitude of people who will change the problem 

Lynn Swingle


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