Blount’s Confederate Drive sign comes down

By KENT FAULK, News staff writer

Blount County commissioners on Monday cut down the Confederate Drive sign they had ordered removed from county property two weeks ago.

The sign was put in front of the new District 4 road shop last year by Commissioner R.C. Smith.

Two weeks ago, by a 3-1 vote, the commission ordered the sign removed, a small Confederate flag in front of a courthouse war memorial taken down and Confederate stickers taken off county vehicles. Smith cast the lone vote against the decision.

The flag in front of the memorial was taken down the day of the vote, and Smith said he removed a Confederate flag sticker from his county-owned truck last week. But Smith had said he would fight the removal of the sign.

Probate Judge Royce King, chairman of the commission, and three other members of the commission came to the District 4 office off Blount County Road 1 in Cleveland at about 9 a.m. Monday to take the sign down, Smith and King said. A sheriff’s deputy sat in his car to watch as a commissioner cut down the metal signpost with green Confederate Drive street sign. Commissioners also covered up the address on the large District 4 sign with the new address, 5380 Blount County Road 1.

"We certainly gave him an opportunity to do it himself," King said.

Smith has said he believes that as commissioner of the district he had the right to name the drive what he wanted and hadn’t heard any complaints. "It wasn’t an issue until they made it an issue," he said.

But the other commissioners have said they had heard complaints from residents about the sign. Commissioners also have said that while there is a place for the Confederacy, it isn’t on county owned property.

"I would say the people who have contacted me have overwhelmingly said we did the right thing," King said.

Smith said there is a petition drive in the county to get the commission to rescind its order.

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