The Bexar County Commissioners Court voted on Tuesday to remove two Confederate markers from Bexar County grounds.
Both of the markers have Confederate flag emblems, one of which commemorates the Vance House where Confederate General Robert E. Lee was often a guest and the other, comprised of two plaques, tributes the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway. Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
The two historical markers will be replaced by new markers, one that remembers the nine governments of Bexar County and another that will commemorate Ricardo Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant who was granted citizenship in Texas.
During the Commissioners Court meeting dozens of people spoke for and against the removal of the markers, citing their personal opinions and histories. Some said the removal would disregard the nation's history, while others said upholding the markers would further generate hate and division among the community.
"We are simply not going to glorify a symbol that to many people is a symbol of fear and a symbol of hate,"Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.
Wolff said the county will take down a symbol – the Confederate battle flag – that has struck fear in the heart of so many people.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) held a press conference at Travis Park on Saturday to support the removal of a Confederate statue in park's center. Along with that statue, Calvert wants other Confederate monuments on public land to be removed and placed in museums.
"We must look at how slavery ripped our nation apart we must not look up and glorify these symbols that divide race and nation," Calvert said Tuesday. Instead, he wants the "lessons of history (put) in their proper context" in a museum with the Declaration of Succession to the Confederacy underneath each historical marker.
"It's never too late to do the right thing," he said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) San Antonio Branch Executive Committee member William Johnson said he was pleased to hear people talking about race in "such a civil manner" during the Commissioners Court meeting.
"There was a time when my ancestors were enslaved, imagine that. Being enslaved. We're not just talking about jail for a few week, we're talking a lifetime, generation after generation," he said. "And for me, any relic that represents that (history) ... needs to removed from among us, particularly on public soil. Public soil is paid for by all of us."
Others, some of whom wore red shirts and held Confederate flags, said removing the markers would erase the past and allow history to repeat itself.
Hood's Texas Brigade Association Commander William Smith said the Confederate markers represent United States veterans and are not symbols of racism or hate.
"If we do not teach the history to our young, they are bound to repeat it," he said.
Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) said the Civil War, which was "brother against brother" was different than any other war. He said although he supports the removal of the marker, he does not support forgetting veterans.
"I do not want to forget that there are veterans on both sides on that war and they were all brothers of each other as we are today," he said.
Felix Almaraz, a member of the Bexar County Historical Commission committee that studies historical markers said the haste to removal all symbols is comparable to trying to sanitize history.
"They remove the symbols and what's next, books? They don't like what is written in the books so they burn books," he said. "It's a very thin line but it's easy to cross and that is what bothers me."
Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2) sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor earlier this month requesting that a task force be formed to review the Confederate monuments and flags located in public places throughout the city. Mayor Taylor responded, noting that removing Confederate symbols will not solve the underlying cause of racism, that City staff has been directed to “identify any monuments connected with Confederate history or symbolism” and produce a report for her review and consideration of “opportunities for expanding interpretation at these sites.”
*Featured/top image: The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.