Archived News

Funding approved for Sylva statue changes

The proposed changes would cover pedestal inscriptions glorifying the Confederacy. Donated photo The proposed changes would cover pedestal inscriptions glorifying the Confederacy. Donated photo

The pedestal of the Confederate soldier statue in Sylva will get a $14,000 makeover following a 4-1 vote from the Jackson County commissioners. 

The May 18 vote came nine months after the board agreed on Aug. 4 , 2020, to make the changes in response to criticism  that the statue — and its prominent placement on the hill overlooking downtown Sylva — glorifies racism and the Confederacy. 

During an April 13 work session, Chairman Brian McMahan and Commissioner Gayle Woody presented their proposed design to cover up the Confederate flag and inscription “Our heroes of the Confederacy” that currently adorns the front of the pedestal. The Confederate flag will be covered with a large plaque reading, “Jackson County N.C. Civil War Memorial. This monument was erected by citizens of Jackson County in memory of those who died during the American Civil War. Originally dedicated on September 18, 1915. Rededicated on May 11, 1996, to honor Jackson County veterans of all wars.” The words “Our heroes of the Confederacy” would be covered with a plaque spelling out the nation’s unofficial motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “out of many, one.”

County Manager Don Adams presented a cost estimate for the changes, which commissioners approved. The plan is to install dark-colored aluminum panels on the front face of the pedestal, which would serve to cover up the original inscriptions without damaging or permanently removing them. On top of the aluminum panel, cast bronze plaques would be installed bearing commissioners’ desired inscription. The estimated cost for materials is $11,190.85 with an installation fee of $1,910 and sales tax of $783.36 for a total price tag of $13,884.20. 

With commissioners’ approval secured, the company — Yadkinville-based AOA Signs — will produce a spec design, which commissioners will also approve. Once that approval is given, the production phase will begin. The process could take up to eight weeks to complete from the time commissioners approve the design. 

Commissioners voted 4-1 last August to pursue the changes after Sylva’s town board voted 3-2 approving a resolution  that asked the county relocate the statue. The majority of the county commissioners saw the solution as a compromise between community members who view the statue as offensive glorification of a racist past and others who see it as a memorial to a horrific war that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. However, the solution appears unlikely to appease either side, with the anti-statue faction reiterating that they’ll settle for nothing less than seeing the statue moved to a less conspicuous location and the pro-statue crowd decrying the planned changes as a disrespectful bow to political pressure. 

Related Items

Even on the board of commissioners, agreement with the plan has not been unanimous. Commissioner Tom Stribling, who joined the board following November’s election, voted against it and has consistently expressed his disapproval of the proposal. During an interview ahead of the 2020 election, he called the statue “a symbol of freedom,” and said that it’s a piece of history that “doesn’t need to be erased. It needs to be taught.”

“So this is spending $13,000 to cover the Confederate flag, is that what we’re doing with this?” he asked during a May 11 work session discussing the issue. 

“That would be correct,” replied McMahan. 

“I think it’s a waste of money myself,” he said. “Just my two cents.” 

Leave a comment


  • Aluminum is a very galvanic active metal. I think it will wind up damaging the stone as it is impossible to keep rainwater from seeping in there.

    And AluminumBronze is less galvanic active by many factors than Aluminum, so an electrical charge will be set up which will destroy the Bronze panels over time.

    I suggest you discuss this idea with a professional metallurgist, likely they can help you make a better choice then Aluminum to protect the stone. Try calling WCU and see if they have a proper metallurgist to advise you on how to protect the stone before you make a tragic mistake.

    I am glad you are making changes to the statue, but a better idea would be an adjacent statue just as large and in honor of the black and native slaves who were freed.

    This statue like most of these Confederate statues were set up long after the Civil War ended, meant to honor people who were trying to destroy the United States of America, and an effort to make honorable a rebellious act of State separation and war.

    It was also a slap in the face of all the freed slaves, and was a common way of declaring supremacy. Just the placement on top of the hill in front of the Halls of Justice declared they were still in charge even if they lost the war.

    Continuing to honor them without placing a suitable plaque outlining their civil rebellion against the nation they were a part of is hardly a proper solution.

    posted by Dawn Hill

    Thursday, 06/17/2021

  • I can't understand how anyone can go along with this! No where on this statue does it say ANYTHING about racism. It's a rememberance of ALL Jackson County residents that fought in ALL wars!

    Woke culture is going to destroy this country, if it hasn't already! Stop trying to delete our history! The good and the bad are there to remind us NEVER to cross those lines again!

    Those that don't learn from history are destined to repeat it! Mark my words!

    posted by Concerned Citizen

    Wednesday, 05/26/2021

  • They are just just following the Communist/Socialist playbook. China, The old Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea.... etc... Remove religion and history. Well they say you can vote your way into Socialism but you will have to shoot your way out of it.

    posted by Harold Jones

    Monday, 05/24/2021

  • It's a waste of time and money trying to appease the hard left who has no appreciation of history. They will still agitate for the removal when they should be told to shut up and learn some history.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Sunday, 05/23/2021

  • More liberal craziness trying to deny our countries past and rewrite it's history. Sad moment when we can pretend history didn't happen and make it up as we go along. My family was Confederate soldiers and died in that war, so my thoughts about the Confederate flag is not racial at all but a part of my Southern Heritage. This country has gone to hell without it's hero named Trump.

    posted by Mark David Crawford

    Friday, 05/21/2021

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.