The full House could soon vote on a bill to prevent the permanent removal of state monuments including statues or roadside markers.
The measure by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) requires any monument that must be moved for construction purposes be returned to that spot or another similarly prominent location.
He tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish too many markers are disappearing each year because either they are offensive to some or because they are removed by road crews and never replaced.
Benton, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is particularly concerned by Confederate monuments.
“In this politically correct era, there are people that would like to see all those things done away with,” he says. “I, for one, and there are a lot of people in this state that are very proud of their heritage of those people who stood up and fought for what they believed in.”
Benton says the bill would also protect the carving on Stone Mountain.
“That’s one of the greatest carvings that’s even been and we would have people that would go in and dynamite it,” he says.
Benton, who first introduced the bill last year, says it has nothing to do with the controversial statue of Tom Watson which was moved from in front of the Capitol steps in November to a park across the street.
Watson, a former state lawmaker and member of the U.S. House and Senate, was a populist turned white supremacist. But he was viewed a hero at the time his statue was dedicated in 1932.
Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the statue moved for the reconstruction of the Capitol steps set to begin in April.
At this point, State Property Officer Steve Stancil says he does not know if the statue or any other one will ever return to the prominent spot for safety reasons.
“There has been concerns that it would be a good place… to hide a package or bomb (and) it would be easier to evacuate the building if there was nothing there,” he tells Parrish.
Stancil says the same holds true when it comes to talk of placing a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in the spot.
He says when construction on a new plaza on the opposite side of the Capitol is completed early next year, some statues will be moved there freeing up space for the Watson statue and even a future one of Dr. King on the Capitol grounds.