Commissioned just three years after the Civil War ended and paid for by a Walton Ladies Association, the Walton monument was erected in 1871 and is the nation’s second oldest Confederate memorial, according to local historian Stephen McBroom.

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County’s elected officials have for years resisted efforts to remove a Confederate flag from the lawn of its county courthouse, but have never seriously considered relocating a nearby monument honoring 92 Confederate dead.


"The monument, or memorial, is, in my opinion, a separate issue from the flag," County Commission Chairman Bill Chapman said at a Tuesday board meeting where the fate of the flag once again hung in the balance.


Walton County’s monument has stood as this region’s last remaining Confederate memorial on public property since 2015, when a structure erected in the late 1950s in tribute to "Uncle" Bill Lundy was moved from city-owned land in Crestview to private property.


RELATED: (Nov. 2015) Uncle Bill Lundy Memorial Rededication: Symbol of hate or heritage? (VIDEO, PHOTOS)


RELATED: (June 2020) Temporary removal of Confederate-era flag from Walton County courthouse grounds not related to protest


RELATED: (2018) Walton votes to keep Confederate flag


Commissioned just three years after the Civil War ended and paid for by a Walton Ladies Association, the Walton monument was erected in 1871 and is the nation’s second oldest Confederate memorial, according to local historian Stephen McBroom.


Its fate though, could be in jeopardy. In Florida and across the nation, Confederate monuments are being removed or destroyed, and flags bearing the southern standard Stars and Bars are being banned from public places and sporting events.


Two marches organized by Black community leaders have been held recently in DeFuniak Springs. One was conducted to protest Black deaths in 2020 at the hands of police officers, and the second in celebration of Juneteenth, the day celebrating the end of slavery.


The first march was supposed to have ended at the Walton County Courthouse, but organizers decided to lead participants to another location. The second did wind up at the courthouse, and calls for the removal of the Walton monument were voiced at that time.


RELATED: (Dec. 2018) Walton County declares Confederate flag vote ‘non-binding’


Rally goers chanted "Take it back" in reference to a petition circulated at the rally asking the county to move the monument to another site.


Sabu Williams, a long-time member of the Okaloosa County NAACP and Juneteenth celebration attendee, said the organizations he has worked with have recommended returning the monument to Valley Church in the Eucheeanna community.


Valley Church is where the memorial originally stood before being moved to the DeFuniak Springs courthouse building sometime around 1900.


"There is a cemetery there that is on private property. To our thinking, that would be a perfect location," he said. "Out of respect for the 92 men they’re memorializing, the cemetery where it originally was is a very appropriate place for it."


The anti-Confederate symbol sentiment led two people to call upon the County Commission Tuesday to remove the flag from the courthouse property. A lengthy public discussion of the matter ensued.


When commissioners finally voted 3-2 to reject a motion to retire the Confederate flag to a museum, it was the second time in five years the board had voted to take that action.


President @realDonaldTrump has signed an executive order to ensure anyone that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial, or statue is prosecuted to the fullest extent. pic.twitter.com/ZhA6zU1DpU

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 27, 2020

In 2015, following the deaths of Black churchgoers at the hands of a white supremacist who had been photographed holding the Confederate Stars and Bars, the County Commission did decide, under pressure, to remove that battle flag from its property.


They also voted, however, to replace it with another Confederate symbol, the first national flag of the Confederacy. It was a move that sparked protests, including boycotts of Walton County businesses.


The 2015 shooting led to many states, cities and even the U.S. Navy to cease flying Confederate memorials. But in 2018, a Walton County referendum saw a 65 percent majority of voters reject a call to remove the flag.


Among the cities whose leaders did remove the Confederate flag from its property after the 2015 killing spree of Dylann Roof was Crestview in Okaloosa County.


The decision led the family of Uncle Bill Lundy, reputed to have been the longest living Confederate veteran in Florida at the time of his death, to seek permission to remove the memorial to family land on Hemphill Road, about two miles north of the city.


In a November 2015 ceremony, the Lundys and Southern heritage preservation groups gathered to lower the Confederate flag over Lundy’s memorial stone and move the monument.


"Forever on out, the politically correct will not bring this down," Southern Strong representative Tony Vance said after the Lundy flag was raised at its new home. "They will never touch it again."


The memorial was moved again, though, in 2019. A Lundy relative sold the land under which the monument stood to an energy company.


Greg Lundy, Uncle Bill’s great, great grandson, confirmed last week he’d moved the memorial to a safe place after the land sale. He declined to disclose the location for fears the monument would be targeted for destruction, vandalism or protest.


When the Confederate flag was lowered and the Lundy memorial moved from Crestview city property, the Walton County monument and flag were left as the sole remaining Confederate symbols on public property in this region.


One speaker at Tuesday’s Walton County meeting likened the county’s clinging to its support for Confederate symbols to the last person at a Christian revival holding out in resistance to a preacher’s call to salvation.


"Let me beckon you come forward to the altar," Michael Bowden told commissioners.


The motion to remove the flag was made, as it had been in 2015, by Chapman, who indicated retiring it might actually protect the monument over which it flies.


"That memorial is to 90-something dead people that happened to fight in the Civil War. There are no markings on that other than the flag that indicates it has something to do with the Confederacy," he said. "The only reason you would think it would be a Confederate memorial or monument is the flag."


Williams said he certainly finds the courthouse monument less offensive than the Confederate flag accompanying it.


"It’s not like it’s a memorial to Robert E. Lee or something, it’s an honorarium to the Confederate dead," he said. "It has always been the flag (that has offended people of color)."


While the monument has occupied courthouse ground for 120 years, the flag was raised near the monument site in 1964 in an act of defiance during the Civil Rights era.


Jalen Jones, who helped organize the first of this year’s marches through DeFuniak Springs and was a featured speaker at the Juneteenth event, finds the county’s flag and its monument equally offensive.


"I don’t think the memorial should be destroyed, but I don’t think it should be in front of the courthouse," he said. "It’s still a Confederate symbol. The way I look at it, the Confederate Army, bottom line, what they were fighting for was keeping slaves."


McBroom said the aging memorial structure wouldn’t survive relocation to its original home.


RELATED: PHOTO GALLERY: Bill Lundy Confederate Memorial re-dedication


"It’s got serious cracks in it," he said. "If you try to move it there’s a 90 percent chance it will shatter and then it will be gone forever."


McBroom was among about 10 people, at least one of whom was armed, who assembled on the day of the first DeFuniak Springs march to defend the courthouse Confederate memorial from would-be vandals.


He said he doesn’t support removing either the Confederate flag or the monument from outside the Walton County Courthouse, and was the only county resident to speak at Tuesday’s meeting in opposition to removing the flag.


The 92 names on the Confederate monument represent men who never returned after leaving their Walton County homes to fight for the Southern cause, McBroom said. Some of those were his own relatives.


McBroom said to him the memorial also commemorates the lives lost when Union forces indiscriminately "cut a bloody swath" from Rocky Bayou to Marianna while "trying to strangle the South" near the end of the Civil War.


"They murdered women, children and slaves," he said. "It didn’t matter to them, they killed everybody."


The only battle fought in Walton County is commemorated each year in a reenactment conducted during the Chautauqua festival.


"It has no ties to any slavery, which is all the Black Lives Matter people are talking about," McBroom said of the monument. "There are three other war memorials on the public courthouse grounds. Do you want to go for the WWI or WWII monuments next? All this moving around is crazy, this is our history in Walton County and we believe we should leave it alone."


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