Silent Sam

CJ photo by Don Carrington

RALEIGH — Silent Sam may soon find a new home nowhere near the UNC Chapel Hill campus.

The UNC System board of governors announced Wednesday, Nov. 27, it had entered a consent agreement with the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the fate of the Confederate memorial, which stood for more than a century at McCorkle Place in Chapel Hill.

The board approved the deal after a Wednesday closed session.

SCV, which sued the UNC System, has the monument, Carolina Journal has learned.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour signed the settlement agreement, according to the Orange County Superior Court clerk’s office.

As part of the settlement, SCV owns the monument and will control it as long as it’s kept outside the 14 counties with UNC System campuses. The board also agreed to provide $2.5 million in non-university funds to pay for restoration or maintenance costs.

Silent Sam was placed on campus in 1913 to honor Confederate soldiers from North Carolina who died during the Civil War. It’s been a focal point of controversy intermittently for decades.

In August 2018, protesters removed the statue from its pedestal. It’s been stored at a secret location since then.

The controversy continued. UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and other officials initially proposed relocating Silent Sam to a new historic center at the edge of campus. Nearly 80 teaching assistants and instructors threatened to withhold student grades from the fall semester if the proposal were adopted.

The university’s Faculty Council opposed the “grade strike” while backing the intent of the TAs and instructors. Grades went out on time.

Despite initial support from the board and system leaders, Folt was forced to resign. When Folt announced she was leaving, she ordered the pedestal where Silent Sam once stood removed.

Officials wrestled with a law passed in 2015 requiring the N.C. Historical Commission to approve relocation of any historical markers on monuments on public property. They can be removed temporarily for repair or renovation, or moved to another location on the original property if it has “similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access.” But monuments can’t be taken down without the commission’s backing.

Last fall, the board named members Darrell Allison, Jim Holmes, Wendy Murphy, Anna Nelson and Bob Rucho to a task force to find a solution. Their initial deadline was March 15. But until Wednesday, members had reported little progress.

Statements by the board of governors and UNC Chapel Hill interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz say the settlement should end the Silent Sam controversy. But it’s unclear how the agreement satisfies the 2015 law.

Carolina Journal contacted the offices of Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, for comment. Neither had responded at press time.

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