Give locals power to change monuments, senator says

Sen. Darrell Jackson
Sen. Darrell Jackson tglantz@thestate.com

State Sen. Darrell Jackson plans to pre-file legislation to allow local governments, school districts and colleges to rename or change historical monuments in their jurisdiction.

The Richland County Democrat also wants S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of part of the Heritage Act. That part requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to alter specific monuments and memorials or rename streets.

“There are people who feel strongly that the constitutionality of that legislation is very questionable,” Jackson said.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley urged lawmakers to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds after the racially motivated slaying of nine African-Americans in June, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. The House and Senate voted to furl the flag in July.

Now, some want other monuments removed, including a State House statue of white supremacist “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, a former S.C. governor and U.S. senator who was a member of a post-Civil War militia responsible for lynching African-Americans. Others want the Tillman name removed from buildings at Clemson and Winthrop universities.

If Jackson’s proposal becomes law, the colleges could act without the Legislature’s approval. The Citadel also could remove a Confederate naval jack from a campus chapel. A Greenwood war memorial that separates slain soldiers by race also could be changed at the local level.

Jackson was one of the authors of the Heritage Act but now is for revisiting the law. “We perhaps went too far,” Jackson said. For the state to tell local governments what they can do with monuments is the equivalent of the federal government telling the state what to do, he added.

However, GOP lawmakers, who control the Legislature, likely will block Jackson’s proposal.

State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, said he and other Senate Republicans would be opposed to reopening the Heritage Act. “I don’t think one can sanitize history,” Courson said. “It is what it is.”

In addition, S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said in August the House will not consider changing or removing other monuments.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

Renaming Tillman Hall?

What: A march to “Reclaim Old Main,” in support of renaming Tillman Hall at Clemson University, will be held Wednesday

When: 4 p.m.

Where: The walk will begin at the gates of Memorial Stadium and continue to Tillman Hall