The citizens of Daviess County own the Confederate monument located on the courthouse lawn, according to Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
He’s sourcing a 1997 record from the National Record of Historic Places, which can be viewed here and shows ownership of the statue is “public-local.”
“There is a question who owns the monument,” Mattingly said. “The answer to that question was the public. Meaning not the private, not-for-profit chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, but the public. Daviess County Fiscal Court represents the public.”
The statue has become one of the prevalent — and most-heated — topics in Daviess County in recent months. Fiscal Court was originally set to vote on whether or not to remove the statue from the lawn earlier this month, but at the last minute decided to delay the vote until Aug. 6.
“Originally we had involved the Daughters of the Confederacy and we said that if we vote to move it, we would like to move it to a battlefield, a private memorial or marked place that you have,” Mattingly said. “Now the Daughters withdrew from their agreement.”
That withdrawal came after a late offer from Marcus Bosley, president of Marcus W. Bosley & Associates Inc., to allow the United Daughters of the Confederacy to move the statue to his company property. Last week, Bosley signed a 99-year lease with the organization stating the statue could be displayed at his office building at 1601 Frederica St.
Earlier this week, Bosley contended that the United Daughters of the Confederacy still owned the monument, meaning they could decide where to place it if it was moved.
Susan McCrobie, DOC Kentucky Division President, wrote a letter to Fiscal Court saying they would prefer to move the monument to Bosley’s offices rather than the previously agreed-upon location on their private property off U.S. 431.
Mattingly said that lease with Bosley doesn’t matter since the monument is publicly owned, so the decision on where it ends up lies with Fiscal Court. If they do vote to move the statue, Mattingly said he knows where it won’t go.
“I can tell you one site that I’m absolutely 100% against and that’s Mr. Bosley’s property (near Owensboro High School). That is absolutely a non-starter for me,” he said.
Mattingly said precedent has also been set for ruling that the statue is a publicly owned object. He said in 2016, the DOC and Sons of Confederate Veterans lost a lawsuit regarding the removal of a similar statue in Louisville. The statue was ruled to have been owned by the public.
Another argument from McCrobie and Bosley is the statue would not be properly protected if it were moved to the location off U.S. 431. Mattingly said it would be no less protected than where it sits now or anywhere else it might end up.
“I can find no record in my research where a statue that has been moved from a public place to a battlefield or to a cemetery has been vandalized,” Mattingly said. “Everybody wants to throw that up, but in reality there’s no evidence that would occur.”
Groups are still advocating both for and against the removal of the statue from the lawn. One event was held at the end of June by several local organizations who support the removal, while a “Save the Confederate Monument Rally” is scheduled to take place Aug. 1.
“Right now, everything is up in arms,” Mattingly said. “Fiscal Court has made no decision. … The key is whether or not we remove the statue from public property. … The key question is should that statue be on a public lawn where a body has a monopoly on all the services that all of its citizens need.”
George Wathen, the County Commissioner who made the motion to postpone the vote, said he thinks Fiscal Court made a good decision allowing more public input.
“When we postponed that vote, we really had two goals,” he said. “The first one was articulated and everybody knows that we wanted it. We wanted to give the citizens a chance to say what they wanted to say, and we’ve done that. That’s part of what’s going to happen on Aug. 1.
“The second is we wanted to make sure all alternatives were discovered and explored. … I think we are moving along with those goals and we will make a good decision on Aug. 6.”