Monument task force appointed

Published 4:24 pm Monday, October 5, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Volpe Boykin, who will represent Carrsville on a task force charged with making recommendations to Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors on whether or not the county’s Confederate monument stays or goes, has, on more than one occasion, called the nationwide push to take down such statues part of a “Marxist agenda.”

Maggie Richards, who, like Boykin, is white, blamed the media for the renewed controversy over the statue during the county’s Sept. 3 public hearing on the matter, saying those who want it taken down have “forgotten their history, or don’t know it.”

She’ll be representing the county’s Windsor District on the task force.

The Rev. Dr. Lilton Marks, who is Black, has said he doesn’t expect those who are white “to understand the hurt that this monument causes to a people who live in the systemic racism of this nation.” He’ll be representing the Isle of Wight NAACP, a group that has been calling for the monument’s removal since 2017.

Another Black member of the task force, Carrollton resident Derek Boone, co-organized a Black Lives Matter protest in June outside Isle of Wight’s government complex where the monument currently stands, and has pledged to continue marching until such time as the statue is removed.

Despite their diverse views, the group will be working to evaluate potential sites for the monument’s relocation and possible verbiage for a sign contextualizing it, if it stays. On Oct. 1, the Board appointed eight voting members, plus Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson, who will serve as a non-voting liaison to the county government.

The task force was originally planned to have 10 members, including Robertson: one from each of the county’s five voting districts, one from the NAACP, one from the county’s historical society, one from a citizens group and one from the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, however, which Newport District Supervisor William McCarty had specifically named in his Sept. 17 motion to create the task force, declined to participate, resulting in several competing suggestions from Board members on who should fill the ninth seat.

“I think we may have been remiss not having someone who is at least affiliated, associated with the Daughters of the Confederacy, which 105 years ago gifted that particular monument to the county,” said Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson disagreed, suggesting instead that a high school student be appointed to represent the county’s youth. Board Chairman Joel Acree then said he’d already considered that option, but had talked to parents who “do not want their children injected in this.”

Acree then recommended that the matter be tabled, prompting County Attorney Bobby Jones to remind the Board that the reason they had planned to appoint members that evening was because they had set a date of Dec. 1 for the task force to make its recommendations — a deadline that likely wouldn’t be reached if appointments were delayed.

“We set a date that we were going to appoint this evening … I think to prolong it would be an injustice to what we’ve set forth,” McCarty agreed.

McCarty then motioned that the Board proceed with eight members instead of nine, despite the risk of the task force deadlocking 4-4. The Board approved McCarty’s motion unanimously.

Other members of the task force are Rebecca Mercer, who will represent the Hardy District; Ray Gibbs of Smithfield; Albert Burckard, representing the Isle of Wight County Historical Society; and Herb DeGroft, representing the Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association. Burckard and DeGroft, both of whom are descended from Union Civil War veterans, had each spoken against moving the monument during the Sept. 3 public hearing.

“I have no reason to change what I said at the public hearing,” DeGroft said. “My grandfather … if he were alive today, I think he’d say leave it alone.”

Boykin, however, told the paper he plans to keep “an entirely open mind,” despite his earlier opposition to removing the statue.

Regarding the task force appointees, Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler said it “appears to be a diverse group,” but called the concept in general a “stall tactic” by the Board of Supervisors — stating she felt county residents had already spoken at the public hearing.

“I’m hoping that with the task force, everybody will start afresh … and that the Board of Supervisors will seriously consider removing the monument,” she said.

The county has yet to release details on where and when the first meeting of the task force will take place.