There is little support for removal of SC Confederate monuments

There is little support for removal of SC Confederate monuments

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - From the Wade Hampton statue on the south side of the State House to a marker near the governor's office noting Sherman's attack, to another on Gervais Street for the Robert E. Lee Highway, South Carolina's capital building is surrounded by reminders of the Confederacy.

Visitors including Rich Zinn, in Columbia, to help his daughter start school at USC believe they should stay there.

"There's definitely a historical value, whether it's wrong or right," said Zinn as he toured the State House grounds.

Not all of the monuments are linked to the Civil War. The eastern part of the property includes an African-American monument with a depiction of a slave ship.

A couple of monuments pay tribute to post-war figures. One of them, the so-called "Father of Gynecology," J. Marion Sims.

Critics including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the Sims monument, located at the corner of Gervais and Assembly Streets, is offensive. Sims performed many of his experiments on African-American women, without using anesthesia.

A monument to former Governor and U.S. Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman has been targeted for years. In 2008, Democratic Richland Rep. Todd Rutherford introduced legislation to remove the Tillman statue.

Rutherford and others citing Tillman's participation in Reconstruction-era "Red Shirt" militia raids that murdered dozens of black victims. Rutherford's
bill failed and he has more recently called for modification of the monument to reflect the brutality of Tillman's history.

The 2000 Heritage Act, passed in the effort to remove the Confederate flag from the State House dome, requires a two-thirds vote by House and Senate to remove a monument.

Rutherford admits it is unlikely the General Assembly would back removal. South Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander Leland Summers says his organization opposes any effort to remove Confederate monuments.

"History is history," he told us by phone. "You can't change it."

Governor Henry McMaster, House Speaker Jay Lucas, and others have said there is no legislative support for removing historical monuments.

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