Union County commissioners approved a plan Monday night that could allow the Confederate flag to fly in Monroe under certain circumstances.
The county was drawn into the hot-button issue last month after it removed small Confederate battle flags planted without permission at the base of its Confederate soldiers memorial. That 1910 obelisk, erected during the Jim Crow era, stands in front of the Old County Courthouse in downtown Monroe.
In a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved a resolution by vice chair Stony Rushing that designates the old courthouse and its grounds as a museum. It also directs county staff to work with local historic groups involved with the Heritage Room at the courthouse to develop policies for displaying artifacts, promoting use of the property and protecting the structure.
There was no mention of the Confederate flag during a brief debate on the issue.
Commissioner Lance Simpson said he did not see a museum as the best use for the site but did not elaborate.
Board chair Richard Helms disagreed. He said monuments at the site recognize sacrifices by county residents dating to the Revolutionary War, and that designating the site as a museum would honor those sacrifices and let future generations have a greater appreciation for county history.
Rushing has said he doesn’t have a problem with the Confederate flag.
“I’m not looking to inflame Monroe’s racial history,” he said during an interview before the vote. “We’re just trying to preserve all our history, the good, the bad and the ugly.”
He said it’s helpful to clarify under what circumstances Confederate flags could fly, such as during local ceremonies, filming for a movie or at historic re-enactments. There is no county policy now, Rushing said, and it’s possible rules could be developed that say no Confederate flags are allowed to fly.
The county has talked for years about turning the 1886 courthouse into a museum. Rushing’s resolution calls the building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the “single most significant property representing the history and development of Union County.”
The Confederate flag remains a divisive issue locally and nationally, even after the flag came down from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse this month. It was removed in the wake of the killing of nine people at a historically black Charleston church in what authorities believe was a racially motivated crime.
In Alamance County on Saturday, up to 1,500 people rallied in support of a Confederate monument at the old courthouse following a plan to ask commissioners to remove the monument.