MANATEE -- When Susie Copeland heard about the monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers in downtown Bradenton, the Manatee NAACP president went to look at the marble gray-colored monument, which sits on the west side of the Manatee County Historic Courthouse.
"I really didn't have a lot of strong feelings one way or another," Copeland said Thursday. "I think it was tastefully done. It is history. Others may feel differently."
The monument, which honors Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument was unveiled June 3, 1924, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America.
A Confederate flag, which has been the subject of recent debate in the country following the tragedy in Charleston, S.C., is etched on one side of the monument.
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Since the flag is also in the same gray as the monument, Copeland said she "had to really look" at the flag Wednesday to see it.
"It blends right into the monument," she said. "Had it been different, I would have objected."
Copeland said personally, "it doesn't matter one way or another" to her.
"You can't erase history," she said. "Our history may not be very good in some areas, but it was still the way it was. We need to move on from there, of course. Those days are long gone."
One of the monument's sides is dedicated to Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Confederate army during the American Civil War, with the inscription "calm and noble in peace, courageous and chivalrous in war. True to the best traditions of
the South. The Confederate Soldier lives enshrined in the hearts of his grateful countrymen."
R.B. "Chips" Shore, the county's clerk of circuit court and comptroller, said he's not heard "a word" about the monument other than about a misspelled word since he's been in office. Shore, who has filed for re-election in 2016, took office in 1977.
"It's a memorial to the soldiers of the Confederacy. Not that it makes any difference," Shore said Thursday. "It's just been there. I never thought about it."
The county commission would have to decide to remove the monument, Shore said.
The Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy also purchased the Gamble Mansion, the home where Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate secretary of state, hid from Northern soldiers. The chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy donated the house -- headquarters of a sugar plantation -- and 16 acres in Ellenton to the state.
The park today is called the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.
On Thursday, Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee released a statement about the Confederate flag.
"It is the position of the Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee that the Confederate Battle Flag no longer be flown above any public or governmental property. While we recognize the significance of the flag to the Confederacy, it must become a symbol of the past and be displayed appropriately with other relics of the past in a museum, not flown over public land that should be welcoming to all."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.