Silent Sam still stands

Monday, May 28, 2012

Editor: They say that silence is golden. If so, Silent Sam, as he is affectionately known, must be 24-karat. He’s the Confederate soldier at the University of North Carolinat at Chapel Hill. My information says he was erected and unveiled June 2, 1913. That means he will be 99 years old this coming June.

Last time I visited Chapel Hill, he was still standing his ground on McCorkle Place facing Franklin Street. His position appears to have never changed. It’s like he’s stuck in time or maybe has tar on his heels. Some suggest he stands for regional heritage while others say he is a symbol of oppression. No wonder he looks so grey, standing there all alone.


To the best of my knowledge, he has never uttered one word or fired one round in all of these many years. He has kept his powder dry. I wonder why? Officially I’m told he is silent because he has no cartridge box. Another friend told me his weapon is simply a Quaker gun. One Carolina graduate I know says he is waiting for a virgin to walk by before he fires a volley.

Whatever the case, I’m fond of old Silent Sam. He gives people something to talk about. He makes me look at where we have been and ponder where we are going. Like most of us, maybe he’s often just plain misunderstood. I think his password was simply that sublime word, duty. He defines that word monumentally, despite all the other controversy surrounding him.

Regardless, I like Silent Sam. I hope he gets to fire his gun before he turns 100. What a historical moment that will be. But for now, his silence remains ever deafening.

Frank C. Leonard