By Brandon Moseley and Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
HB 610 would have cut the funding of the Confederate Memorial Park in Chilton County by an estimated $400,000. HB 610 would have diverted: $100,000 to Historic Blakeley State Park, $50,000 to Fort Gaines, $50,000 to Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, $100,000 to the Decatur Civil War Walking Trail, and $50,000 to the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. One percent of the gross amount collected on the one mill ad valorem tax currently is retained by the Alabama Historical Commission for capital improvements and maintenance at Confederate Memorial Park. The tax was originally passed “for the relief of needy Confederate soldiers and sailors, resident citizens of the state and their widows.” When the CSA veterans all died, the money that once had helped support aging Confederate veterans now is used for maintenance and improvements on the state’s Confederate Memorial Park. HB 610’s fund diversion would have left Confederate Memorial Park with just an estimated $120,000. HB 610 was sponsored by Representative Jim Barton (R) from Mobile.
On Facebook Tuesday night, Representative Kurt Wallace (R) from Maplesville said, “I led the charge to kill HB610 on the floor of the House tonight. I could not have defeated it without the help of a bipartisan vote. This was a bill designed to gut and close the Confederate Memorial Park in Verbena. It would have taken 80% of the funding away from the park and re-distributed it to five other parks in Alabama. 52 members voted to kill the bill, 34 supported the bill, and 19 members did not vote either way. This just tells me there are still a lot of Alabamians that are proud of their heritage.”
Rep. Jim McClendon (R) from Springville said that Rep. Barton was “essentially killing the Park.” In exclusive comments with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ Rep. McClendon said that Chairman Barton was leaving just enough money in the budget for the Confederate Memorial Park to cut all the grass one time before putting the chains on the gates. “Rep. Kurt Wallace from Chilton County made a great appeal.”
Rep. Wallace talked at length with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ on this topic. Rep. Wallace said, “That bill snuck up on me. I got a call from one of my constituents who gave me a call and said, ‘Rep. Wallace a bill is coming up that is going to do away with our park.’ Sure enough it was in the committee that day. So I hurried and put some facts together and headed up to the committee.” “They wanted to take 80 percent (of the Park’s state funding). Now, I could understand if they wanted to take 10 percent because these are hard times and everybody needs to do their part. They (Rep. Barton and the proponents of HB 610) wanted to take 80 percent from our park and give it to five other parks that may not be operating as good as our Confederate Park.”
Rep. McClendon said that the Park is a favorite target of some in the legislature. “I have fought this battle before.” “Everyone rallied around our Confederate History.” Rep McClendon said that he hoped that “this was a sound enough defeat that it will echo through the chamber,” so it doesn’t come up again next year.
The state of Alabama’s, Confederate Memorial Park was built on the site of, the Old Soldiers Home for Confederate Veterans. The park has two cemeteries containing 313 graves of Alabama Confederate Veterans and spouses. The Museum houses Civil War uniforms, weapons and equipment, plus many relics from the Soldiers’ Home. The site has picnic areas, walking trails, a nature trail, tours, and the driving tours, nature trail, picnic areas, covered pavilions, the Mountain Creek Post Office, and the Marbury Methodist Church which can be rented out for weddings. The site director is Bill Rambo.
Rep. Wallace said that Confederate Memorial Park has interactive computers you can use. “It has one-of-a kind relics from the Civil War that can be found nowhere else.” Rep. Wallace said that on April the 21st a Union group that commemorates their ancestors’ units which defeated the Confederate units from Alabama will be “bringing back the (Confederate) Battle Flag they captured during the fight.” “There is nowhere else in the world you can see this flag and they are going to bring it back.”
At one time the Old Soldiers Home for Confederate Veterans, which opened in 1899, had 22 buildings including cottages, a hospital, mess hall, Memorial Hall, library, an auditorium, administrative offices, and a dairy barn. As many as 800 residents lived there. The facility closed in 1939 when the last five Confederate widows were moved to Montgomery.
Rep. Wallace said, “Confederate Park is doing very well. It has had almost 40 thousand visitors in two years, these people have come from 38 of the 50 states and we have had people from 12 different counties around the world in that same time period.”
Rep. McClendon said that Rep. Barton stated during the debate that the Confederate Memorial Park was not a Confederate History Site. McClendon said that he disagreed with that statement, “They (Alabama’s Confederate Veterans) are still there. They are just underground.”
HB 610 was defeated by a vote of 52 to 34. 19 members abstained.
To learn more about Confederate Memorial Park: