By Dr. Tom and Leigh Ford
We have had so many ask us about the sexual misconduct allegations from 40 years ago against Judge Roy Moore that we wanted to post our thoughts. We are including a 1 paragraph summary first and for those who want more information, a longer version following. Hope it will help answer any questions or concerns you might have and give you the assurance you need to confidently vote for Roy Moore on December 12.
One Paragraph Summary
We don’t believe the accusations against Judge Moore are true and all 6 voters in the Ford household are voting unreservedly for Roy Moore on Tuesday. Not only that, two of our daughters are working full time on his campaign. God’s Word speaks to how to handle accusers and the accused and how to determine if one is guilty. Scripture applies the principle of requiring multiple witnesses, produced by the accuser, across the board, searching out the matter diligently until substantiated evidence proves an accusation to be true and certain. Roy Moore is not guilty just because he has been accused. It is always advisable to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on the evidence currently circulating in the national press. Stand with Roy Moore or kneel to the media. They want a liberal Democrat in DC who will join them in working for their agenda. You have seen the bias on the part of state and national press to hide the truth from Alabama voters. The major news networks will not report the inaccuracies that have surfaced in the women’s accounts, even Beverly Nelson’s admission on Dec. 8 that she forged part of the yearbook signature. They have been silent toward any support for Roy Moore, continue to report the fabricated allegations of the women as truth and are desperately trying to keep these unsubstantiated claims alive. We believe the accusations are politically motivated, craftily designed to deceive Alabama voters about the character of Roy Moore in such a vile way that Doug Jones can win the election, taking his anti-God, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-sodomite marriage, pro-transgenders in our military and our daughter’s restrooms, pro-liberal Supreme Court Justice appointments, pro-Common Core, pro-Obamacare, anti-2nd amendment agenda to DC to ‘represent’ us. Roy Moore adamantly denies the allegations and there are significant inaccuracies, lies, and/or underlying motives in each of the accuser’s testimonies, as well as character issues, casting serious doubt on the truthfulness of their accounts. On the other hand, Roy Moore has proven himself to be one of the most principled men of our day. If we carefully examine the evidence, consider Roy Moore’s denial of the allegations and his sincere Christian faith that has been proven by his actions over many years, remember his long, public record of standing for God’s righteous laws in Alabama and suffering for it, realize the importance of this race for our nation, and see clearly the motives of those involved in accusing and reporting, we believe Alabama will make the right choice and vote Roy Moore for Senate on December 12.
Roy Moore’s statement of denial
“Yesterday, I made a statement that the allegations described in a Washington Post article against me about sexual impropriety were false… I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct… As a former Judge and administer of the law, I take the protection of our innocent as one of my most sacred callings. False allegations are gravely serious and will have a profound consequence on those who are truly harassed or molested…I strongly urge the Washington Post, and everyone involved, to tell the truth.
“That is all we can do, and I trust that the people of Alabama, who know my record after 40 years of public service, will vouch for my character and commitment to the rule of law.”
“I adamantly deny the allegations of Leigh Corfman and Beverly Nelson.”
Suspicious Timing and Motives
So many things are questionable here and we do not mean Roy Moore’s character. The timing of the Washington Post’s article is very suspicious, and their motives are well-known. These horrific allegations surfaced just a few weeks before the Senate election and our most solid conservative, Christian candidate, Roy Moore, was leading in the polls by double digits. Moore has publicly and courageously stood for God, His Word, Biblical marriage, and the right to life of the unborn, no matter what the cost to him and his family and for these reasons, he is hated by the left and their mouthpiece, the media. The DC Republican establishment also spent $30 million in Alabama trying to destroy Judge Moore’s name and reputation in the primary run-off to keep him out of DC and it did not work. We got it! They do not want his, nor our, conservative values up there. It is highly likely that the Republican establishment has joined with the Democrats and the national, liberal media in this last desperate attempt to replace Moore with a RINO. Mitch McConnell and others, within minutes of the Washington Post’s article breaking, put out statements asking Judge Moore to step down immediately and began talk of a write-in campaign, saying they believed the women. Let’s help Mitch McConnell know AGAIN that he will not be choosing our Senator on Dec. 12.
Applying Biblical principles to this situation
Some Alabama Baptists put out a letter for pastors to sign shortly after the allegations against Roy Moore came out. At first glance, the letter was a no-brainer to sign. It condemned abuse of women and children and, of course, conservatives and liberals alike are not for pedophilia nor abuse of women and everyone can unite around this. However, at this time, in Alabama, it is just as important for Christians to be able to communicate that God also wants to protect us all from false accusers, tells us how to handle an accusation and how to determine if the accused is guilty. Here are a few verses dealing with accusers and the accused. Numbers 35:30 and Deut. 22:25-27 require 2 or 3 witnesses to convict someone of a crime. Moore is being accused of a crime in a 2 of the accounts, even though the statute of limitations prohibits trial. These witnesses are also required in 2 Cor 13:1 “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Matthew 18:16 “Take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:19 “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Also related…Deuteronomy 17:4-6 “When you hear of a matter, search it out diligently to find out if it is true and certain,” and must have the witnesses… Deuteronomy 19:15-21 A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong… both parties must appear for questioning, also addresses malicious and false witnesses and protecting the accused and punishment for a false witness… Proverbs 18:13 “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame,” and Proverbs 18:17 “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” These verses show that the Scriptures apply the principle of requiring multiple witnesses, produced by the accuser, across the board for criminal charges, charges against an elder, against someone in the church and, finally, for every charge. The principle of searching out a matter diligently, including cross-examining the accusers, before making a judgement is another Scriptural point that is important for the protection of the accused. And in cases where there are not two to three witnesses and we have a “she said – he said” situation, then we are left with the testimony of character witnesses. Still the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt rests with the accuser, not the accused. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is important for Christians to take the lead at this time to proclaim not only in what the Bible says about defending women and children from abuse, but also speak clearly to what the Bible says about protecting one from being falsely accused. We don’t know what happened 40 years ago, but accusers need to prove with clear and convincing evidence, and until they do, Moore is presumed innocent of these charges.
Innocent until proven guilty and wrong responses
Roy Moore is being accused of criminal activity. Although the media’s spin from the beginning has been that he is guilty, and the women are the ‘victims’, we must not allow the tactics of the left to convince us that one is guilty just because he has been accused. Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental right of every American, conservative and liberal. Accuse, condemn then hang with no substantiated evidence is a very dangerous pattern and we should not allow it. If we do, we are no longer free. Many have made this mistake too early. Some presumed guilt and demanded that Judge Moore drop out of the Senate race immediately or prove that he did not do what the accusers claim he did 40 years ago and shame on anyone who questions the motives or the character of the accusers. I (Tom), along with anyone else who has spoken up for Judge Moore personally, have gotten phone calls, letters in our mailbox and emails saying I should be ashamed for ‘supporting a pedophile’. Name calling is always the tactic of the left to silence the Christians, because we do not want to be called unloving, judgmental, bigots and certainly not a supporter of pedophilia. The tactic unfortunately works and keeps many silent. It is always advisable to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on the evidence currently circulating in the national press. If you were accused in a similar manner, would you want others to abandon you, believe the media automatically, question your trustworthiness, pronounce judgement without going through the proper process or would you hope that others would speak up and support you when the evidence against you is fraught with lies?
Significant inaccuracies/lies in the testimonies and character issues with the accusers
There are significant inaccuracies in the testimonies of the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct, calling each of their accounts into serious question, whether the liberal national media will report on them or not. A simple look at court documents, the testimonies of others, and just simple verification of the details of the women’s testimonies have revealed the high unlikelihood of truthfulness to any of them. We have not found Moore’s accusers to be credible and have included a few of their debunked statements below.
Leigh Corfman, She’s the 14 year old, who supposedly talked to Moore in her room on a phone, but Corfman’s mom said her daughter did not have a phone in her room. She said she met him around the corner and gave the exact intersection but, upon investigation, the intersection she gave was a mile away and across a major thoroughfare. She said her behavior changed drastically for the worse after the event, but court records show that custody changed from mom to dad because of disciplinary and behavioral problems that her father was better suited to handle right before the supposed event and then a year later, after the supposed event, custody records show that Corfman returned to the custody of her mom because her behavioral issues had improved significantly. She says that she has been divorced 3 times and filed for bankruptcy 3 times. In the initial breaking article, the WAPO included three other totally insignificant accounts in an attempt to make the misconduct with Corfman more believable. These 3 accounts do absolutely nothing to verify the allegations of Corfman, as they were not illegal and not immoral and are not in the same category.
She is the woman from behind the Olde Hickory House restaurant with the forged yearbook signature, that cried while she lied. Her lawyer is Gloria Allred, the attorney who claims credit for giving us Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in the murder of tens of millions of unborn babies. According to a former waitress, Olde Hickory House required employees to be 16 years old. Nelson claims she was 15 when she started. According to two former employees, the dumpsters were on the side of the building. Nelson claimed that they were in the back. Olde Hickory House sat right off the four-lane highway and had a wrap-around porch with lights all around it. Nelson claimed that the surroundings were “dark and isolated.” Rhonda Ledbetter, who worked at Olde Hickory House for almost 3 years, states that the earliest it closed was at 11 p.m. but she believes it was open until midnight. She is certain it did not close at 10:00 because Goodyear was next door, and employees came to eat when their shift ended at 10 p.m. Nelson claims her story occurred after the restaurant closed at 10 p.m. It is unlikely that there was an entrance from the back of the parking lot, which Nelson claimed existed. Multiple sources have claimed that everyone parked on the sides of the building because there wasn’t much room behind the restaurant, according to Rhonda, not enough room to turn around. Renee Schivera stated that a neighborhood backed up to the parking lot and it was adjacent to the backyards of people’s houses, so she did not see how there would have been a back entrance as it would have gone through someone’s yard. Nelson claimed that Judge Roy Moore came in almost every night and sat at the counter, but former employees state that customers at the counter were served by the bartender or short order cook – not served by the waitresses and had no reason to interact with the wait staff. Additionally, two former waitresses and two former patrons state they never saw Judge Moore come into the restaurant. These witnesses have shared their testimony with multiple news outlets. The outlets have failed to report any of this. Nelson was also a party in a divorce action before Moore in Etowah County Circuit Court in 1999. No motion was made for him to recuse. In her accusations, Nelson did not mention that he was the judge assigned to her divorce case in 1999, a matter that apparently caused her no distress at a time that was 18 years closer to the alleged assault. Yet 18 years later, while talking before the cameras about the supposed assault, she seemingly could not contain her emotions. And on the forged yearbook signature that Allred and Nelson will not turn over to be reviewed by an outside party… Roy Moore’s signature on the order of dismissal in the divorce case was annotated with the letters “D.A.,” representing the initials of his court assistant, Delbra Adams. Curiously the supposed yearbook inscription is also followed by the same initials—”D.A.” But at that time, Moore was Deputy District Attorney, not district attorney. Did she copy the signature from the divorce papers, thinking DA stood for District Attorney? It appears so and yesterday, Dec 8, Nelson finally admitted what we already knew in a press conference. After three weeks of claiming it was Moore’s writing, she finally admitted that she forged part of the yearbook signature, but wants us to believe the rest of her story. So, Nelson’s boyfriend at the time says she lied…Employees of the restaurant say she lied…Customers of the restaurant say she lied…Her step-son says she lied…And now she herself admits to lying. But the major news networks refuse to report that Nelson forged the document and lied.
The last and third account of Tina Johnson’s backside allegation.
Court documents show that Roy Moore represented Mary Cofield, who is Tina Johnson’s mother, in the custody dispute over her son in 1991. This brought them to Moore’s law office. Johnson’s mother stated that her daughter (Johnson) was an “unfit, absent and unstable mother” and had a “violent nature”. Tina Johnson has also pled guilty to writing bad checks and for third-degree theft of property. Delbra Adams, Moore’s then-secretary and later judicial assistant, said that in her 13 years of working for Moore, she never saw any inappropriate conduct toward women. The information found in these court documents raise questions about Johnson’s motives in making this accusation.
If these allegations were true, why would these women risk the potential danger Moore would be to other girls for all these years until 4 weeks before the senate election, when the WaPo arrived in Alabama to help us choose our next senator?
Was Roy Moore banned from malls?
This is rather stupid, but continues to be included in the list of offenses against Roy Moore. There is no evidence that Roy Moore was banned from the Gadsden Mall 40 years ago and you can read the testimony of three people who would have personal knowledge of the mall’s security protocol that completely counters everything alleged by the liberal media and the Moore campaign’s political enemies.
What about all the rest of the accusers?
National liberal media continues to show a photograph with numerous photographs of supposed accusers from 40 years ago in their youth. This is highly exaggerated and deceptive. Hope this photo alone causes question and doubt of the legitimacy and accuracy of the reporting. If the allegations were true, Corfman and Nelson are the only illegal, immoral and serious ones and the Johnson allegation would be considered sexual harassment. The rest of the women pictured are the ones who gave trivial allegations that range from he asked me out, to he said I was pretty, to he creeped me out at the mall, to kissing and several testified that the mothers of the girls were involved, vouching for the character of Moore. It is deceitful and a lie to throw these dating claims in with the 2 molestation claims so they can keep up the fake news “multiple accusers” story. The Washington Post and other liberal reporters continue to use these other irrelevant accounts to make the misconduct allegations seem more believable.
Stand with Roy Moore or kneel to the media. The liberal media is obviously one-sided in reporting the supposed accusations against Roy Moore and is dodging any source and refusing to air any interview that doesn’t square with their effort to land a liberal Democrat in the senate seat. They have made no effort to fact check the allegations of the women and will not report the inaccuracies that have surfaced in their accounts and will certainly not cross examine them on air. For over 5 weeks now, the liberal media has combed Gallant, Alabama, the Moore’s hometown, attempting to locate anyone willing to condemn or accuse the Judge. You have seen the bias. The liberal media is practically silent when it comes to reporting that Moore even has any supporters, or staff or volunteers. This reveals an unconscionable bias on the part of state and national press to hide the truth from Alabama voters who will certainly see through the “fake news” and elect Judge Moore for the man that we have always known him to be. In this critical election, may the great state of Alabama look beyond the sources of information that hate truth, that hate God (and those of us who belong to Him) and that continue to report false accusations as truth, while ignoring all evidence that might point to Moore’s innocence and cast their vote on Dec. 12 for Roy Moore for Senate without reserve! Please make yourself into a grassroots activist and spread the side of the story that the mainstream media will not cover and feel free to use any or all of the information in this letter if desired. Encourage your friends not to let the media vilification of Moore affect their vote.
A few words about the Roy Moore’s Democratic Opponent
We are not voting for the “lesser of two evils” in this election. Our primary reason for voting for Roy Moore is not that we don’t want a liberal Democrat to win, but we believe Moore has been falsely accused and he has proven during his 40 years of public service to the people of Alabama that he meets the Biblical qualifications for being a public official- “look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people.” Exodus 18:21
In 2012, the Democratic Party removed God from their platform. Doug Jones, who has been endorsed by the Washington Post, adheres to the platform of his party, the party of murdering children through abortion, the party of homosexuality and sodomite marriage, the party of transgenders in our military and our daughter’s restrooms, the party of Common Core, the party of Obamacare, the party of gun control, and on and on. Voting for him is not an option for a Christian because his stances on these issues do not line up with God and His Word.
Five state campaigns. Forty years of honorable service. Roy Moore has been intensely scrutinized and not a hint of scandal. But four weeks before the election, false allegations. Yet another scheme by liberal Democrats, the Republican establishment and the mainstream, left-wing, socialist news media trying to control our election by controlling our news. If we carefully examine the evidence, consider Roy Moore’s denial of the allegations and his sincere Christian faith that has been proven by his actions over many years, remember his long, public record of standing for God’s righteous laws in Alabama to his own loss when others would not stand, realize the importance of this race for our nation, and see clearly the motives of those involved in accusing and reporting, we believe Alabama will make the right choice and vote Roy Moore for Senate on December 12.
Judge Roy Moore is also our friend and we trust him. It is our purpose to support and defend him until we are given sufficient cause to do otherwise.
May God bless our state and nation as we consider this very important election.
Dr. and Mrs. Tom Ford
Opinion | Solving Alabama’s unemployment crisis is a matter of patriotism
Patriotism is at the top of my mind these days as we prepare for this weekend’s Fourth of July celebrations. I feel a great sense of pride in our nation, even though I often disagree with political leaders at various levels of government.
You can love your country and love many things about your country but still see problems and areas where we can do better as a city, state or nation. And one of the areas where we seem to be struggling here in Alabama is with our unemployment situation.
No one in leadership could have predicted that the coronavirus would hit us the way that it has, and our leaders have struggled to balance the need to keep our people healthy with the need to keep our economy running.
It’s a difficult balance, and while the numbers of new infections of the coronavirus keep going up and keep getting media attention, we are also seeing our unemployment benefits being stretched to the max.
The Alabama Department of Labor is understaffed and overwhelmed by the flood of people filing for unemployment benefits. The Department’s employees are making a heroic effort to make sure that those with legitimate needs are getting the help they need to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. But even so, the unemployed have to wait for hours just to get a ticket that would allow them to speak with an employee and file a claim for their benefits.
But what’s even more concerning is the fact that the state’s unemployment fund is on track to become financially insolvent by the end of the summer. If that happens, then the state will have no choice but to borrow more money from the federal government.
Of course, everyone’s hope is that this coronavirus will begin to slow down, a vaccine will be invented, and business will be able to return to normal. Most people don’t want to rely on government checks to survive and would much rather get back to work as soon as possible.
But for now, at least, the economy is recovering slowly and our unemployment rate, while improving, is still over 6 percent. And that means that, even with borrowed federal money and the recently announced federal extended benefits program, Alabama is still in trouble and our unemployment funds are still in a dangerous situation.
As bad as the situation is, there is a possible solution that our state leaders can and should be considering, if they can get past their current bickering.
The federal government has already sent funding through the CARES Act to help the state battle the coronavirus. Most of that money should be going to providing healthcare services, such as testing for COVID-19, and personal protection equipment like masks and gloves for healthcare workers and employees in essential industries.
However, there’s no reason why some of that money can’t also go towards our unemployment program to help those who are out of work because of the coronavirus.
If some state leaders think they can use up to $200 million of that money to build a new State House, then why can’t they use that money to keep Alabama families fed and housed for a few more weeks?
As the legislative session came to an end a few weeks ago, lawmakers and the governor went to war with each other over how to spend that money. Instead of fighting over pet projects, they should be putting that money into Alabama’s families to help them survive this crisis.
The Fourth of July is all about patriotism, and there’s nothing more patriotic that solving our unemployment crisis and helping Alabama families get back on their feet.
Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance Agency and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.
Opinion | Gov. Ivey: This is our time, Alabama
My fellow Alabamians:
In a few days, America will celebrate her 244th birthday.
Traditionally, many towns and cities around the country light up the night with fireworks and music festivals. In 1776, John Adams predicted that Independence Day would be “celebrated by succeeding generations” with “pomp and circumstance…bonfires and illuminations.”
However, largely because of COVID-19, this year’s observance of our country’s birth will likely be a bit more subdued than previous years. While unfortunate, this is certainly understandable.
Today – and very likely in the days that will follow – instead of talking about what unites us as one nation – other conversations will occur that are, quite frankly, a bit more difficult and challenging.
My personal hope – and prayer – for this year’s 4th of July is that the marvel of our great country – how we started, what we’ve had to overcome, what we’ve accomplished and where we are going – isn’t lost on any of us.
We are all searching for “a more perfect union” during these trying and demanding days.
Over the past several weeks, our nation has been having one of those painful, yet overdue, discussions about the subject of race.
The mere mention of race often makes some people uncomfortable, even though it is a topic that has been around since the beginning of time.
Nationally, a conversation about race brings with it the opportunity where even friends can disagree on solutions; it also can be a catalyst to help total strangers find common ground and see things eye-to-eye with someone they previously did not even know.
Here in Alabama, conversations about race are often set against a backdrop of our state’s long – and at times – ugly history on the subject.
No one can say that America’s history hasn’t had its own share of darkness, pain and suffering.
But with challenge always comes opportunity.
For instance, Montgomery is both the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the cradle of the Confederacy. What a contrast for our Capital City.
The fact is our entire state has, in many ways, played a central role in the ever-evolving story of America and how our wonderful country has, itself, changed and progressed through the years.
Ever since the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands of Alabamians – of all races, young and old – have taken to the streets of our largest cities and smallest towns in protest to demand change and to seek justice.
These frustrations are understandable.
Change often comes too slowly for some and too quickly for others. As only the second female to be elected governor of our state in more than 200 years, I can attest to this.
Most of us recognize that our views on issues such as race relations tend to grow out of our own background and experiences. But, fortunately, our views can change and broaden as we talk and learn from each other.
As a nation, we believe that all people are created equal in their own rights as citizens, but we also know that making this ideal a reality is still a challenge for us.
Even with the election of America’s first African American president 12 years ago, racial, economic and social barriers continue to exist throughout our country. This just happens to be our time in history to ensure we are building on the progress of the past, as we take steps forward on what has proven to be a long, difficult journey.
Folks, the fact is we need to have real discussions – as an Alabama family. No one should be under the false illusion that simply renaming a building or pulling a monument down, in and of itself, will completely fix systemic discrimination.
Back in January, I invited a group of 65 prominent African American leaders – from all throughout Alabama – to meet with me in Montgomery to begin having a dialogue on issues that truly matter to our African American community in this state. This dedicated group – known as Alabama United – is helping to bring some very legitimate concerns and issues to the table for both conversation and action.
As an example, Alabama will continue to support law enforcement that is sensitive to the communities in which they serve. We have thousands of dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our state every single day. But we can – and must – make certain that our state’s policies and procedures reflect the legitimate concerns that many citizens have about these important issues.
I am confident all these conversations – and hopefully many more – will lead to a host of inspirational ideas that will lead to a more informed debate and enactment of sound public policy.
We must develop ways to advance all communities that lack access to good schools, jobs, and other opportunities. As governor, I will continue to make education and achieving a good job a priority – it distresses me that some of our rural areas and inner cities face some of the greatest challenges in education.
There are other critical issues that must be addressed, and I will continue to look for solutions along with you.
Everyone knows government cannot solve these problems alone. Some of the greatest solutions will come from private citizens as well as businesses, higher education, churches and foundations. Together, we can all be a part of supporting and building more inclusive communities.
In other words, solving these problems comes from leaning on the principles that make us who we are – our faith – which is embodied in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
My beliefs on how to treat people were shaped in Wilcox County and my faith was developed at the Camden Baptist Church.
The bible tells us over and over that our number one goal is to love God with all of one’s heart and then to love our neighbor as we love our self. That is what I strive to do every day.
When anyone feels forgotten and marginalized, compassion compels us to embrace, assist and share in their suffering. We must not let race divide us. We must grow and advance together.
Being informed by our past, let us now carefully examine our future and work towards positive change. Together, we can envision an Alabama where all her people truly live up to the greatness within our grasp. We cannot change the past or erase our history… But we can build a future that values the worth of each and every citizen.
So, in closing, my hope and prayer for our country as we pause to celebrate America’s 244th birthday, is that we make the most of this moment.
As for our state, let’s make this a time to heal, to commit ourselves to finding consensus, not conflict, and to show the rest of the nation how far we have come, even as we have further to go.
These first steps – just as we are beginning our third century as a state – may be our most important steps yet.
This is our time, Alabama. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.
Opinion | Our sacred honor
This weekend America will celebrate its 244th birthday. Unfortunately, we do so in a time of a pandemic, a struggling economy, and violent protests. But, it’s still our birthday, and we should both commemorate and celebrate it.
We usually do a good job in our celebration, although this year will be different since social distancing means we’ll be in smaller groups and public fireworks displays have been cancelled. I suspect most of us will find a way to gather with family and close friends to cook out and show the red, white, and blue.
But, a commemoration is more than that. Merriam-Webster defines “commemorate” as “to call to remembrance” or “to serve as a memorial of.” How many of us will stop and remember what it meant for the Second Continental Congress to not only declare our independence from Britain but also to state our reasons for doing so in majestic language positing the highest ideals?
Let me make a suggestion. This Fourth, get a copy of the Declaration and read it. My extended family and friends usually get together and have several of us read the various portions of the Declaration out loud and talk about its meaning. It doesn’t take much time and we always experience a renewed appreciation for the gift that is our country. This year we will do it virtually, in smaller groups.
The Declaration was meant to be read out loud. Indeed, on July 4, Congress not only voted to accept it but also provided for its distribution to the states and the Continental Army. On July 6, John Hancock, as President of Congress, sent letters to the states and to General Washington enclosing broadsides of the Declaration requesting that they have it “proclaimed.” It was read out loud to celebrations in dozens of cities and towns in July and August, and to the Continental Army on July 9 as it prepared for the British Invasion of New York.
To some extent these events were meant to inform and inspire the people of a newly independent nation. But then, and now, the Declaration is a defining document. It not only said we were an independent nation but also who we aspired to be. Freedom and equality were to be at the heart of the nation’s character. And the rights stated in the Declaration—life liberty and the pursuit of happiness—are clearly labeled gifts from God himself to all of us.
The story of our country is really the unfolding of the efforts to live up to these aspirations. President Lincoln used it as a primary basis for arguing against slavery, as in the Gettysburg Address where he famously said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” As a result of the Civil War these ideals were enshrined in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.
Martin Luther King used it in his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, referring to the Declaration and the Constitution as a promissory note to all Americans which he and others in the Civil Rights Movement called upon the nation to honor. As a result of the Movement, Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act.
I know it is fashionable now among our nation’s elites to view America as evil from our birth, evil in our institutions, and evil in our character. That view is a myth, untethered to the reality of our history. This myth is just a false preamble to lay the groundwork for their efforts to radically reorganize our society and have government run every detail of our lives, all the while piling tax upon tax on us. Isn’t this type of government what caused the founders to declare independence in the first place? These elites call themselves “progressive,” but their plan is actually a regression to a tyrannical central government taxing us against our will.
Despite our faults, some of which have been grievous, we are a nation established upon the highest ideals and which has the strength of its character and institutions to self-correct as we strive toward those ideals. Our history repeatedly demonstrates that is who we are.
David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, several years ago told a gathering of those of us in Congress that Americans would be more hopeful if we only knew our history. How true. Complicated and contradictory, yes, but it is also a history of spectacular success and of a major force for good, here and abroad.
So, this week let’s celebrate and commemorate who we are. Let’s pause in the middle of our present troubles to renew our pride as Americans and draw lessons from our founding and history for the resolution of the issues of the day. And let us, like our founders, “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Opinion | Descendants of Emma Sansom call for monument’s removal
We are descendants of Emma Sansom’s family and current or former members of the Gadsden community. We add our voices to the call to remove the statue at the head of Broad Street commemorating Sansom and Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The monument was erected to enforce white supremacy in Gadsden, which we abhor and lament. The only defensible action today is to remove the statue.
Our community may have forgotten why this statue and others like it were erected. We must remember why in order to take wise action.
According to the Auburn University-supported Encyclopedia of Alabama: “Emma Sansom (1847-1900) played a heroic role in the Civil War, when as a teenager she led Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest across Black Creek in northern Alabama to capture Union colonel Abel D. Streight and his raiders in 1863.”
Sansom thus guided to victory the man who would become the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan as the United States struggled to establish a multiracial democracy.
Support of the Confederacy and white supremacy cannot be separated given the historical reality: an oligarchy of less than 400,000 enslavers brought about secession and war to guard their “property rights” over enslaved Black people. Alabama’s secession ordinance in January 1861 foregrounded the hope to “meet the slaveholding States of the South” and set up a new government. Cherokee County — which Gadsden was a part of in 1861 — voted against secession in that convention, as did St. Clair County and most northern Alabama counties.
This division among the white ruling class was an early sign of Confederate disunity as many Southerners resisted the Confederate project throughout the war. Thousands of Alabamians enlisted in the Union Army, mostly from northern Alabama where slavery was entrenched but less centralized than in the lower Alabama “black belt.”
Decades after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House, the “Lost Cause” came into existence. The Lost Cause refers to the myth that a unified South fought for a heroic and noble civilization doomed by fate and the ahistorical “aggression” of the North. The elements that make up the Lost Cause draw from writings by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and by Confederate General Jubal Early in the 1870s and 1880s. They revised the history of secession and war to distance the Confederacy from slavery, focusing instead on antebellum South
Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun’s “states’ rights” philosophy — itself a platform to justify Calhoun’s support of what he called the “positive good” of slavery.
The purpose of the Lost Cause was to justify the enslaving oligarchy’s motives and mission in the minds of white Southerners, most of whom did not own slaves. Its cult conducts an enduring counter-revolution to deny Black people full citizenship to this day.
The legacy of the enslaving power is violence against Black people up to now. That violence includes the KKK’s multiple incarnations, the Jim Crow regime, thousands of lynchings, and repression against Black people struggling for civil rights. Today there are crosses burning in Alabama in reaction against the Black Lives Matter movement. The Lost Cause is not just a shameful past wound, its adherents oppress Black people in America to this day.
What motivated the white people of Gadsden to erect this monument to Sansom and Forrest is just one part of a larger project to retrench white rule and eliminate Black political freedom.
After federally-directed Reconstruction ended in 1877, the white ruling class regained political control of the Southern states. Democratic Party “Redeemer” governments passed Jim Crow laws segregating Blacks. The US Supreme Court decision Plessy v Ferguson in 1896 upheld Jim Crow segregation. From 1890 to 1908, almost every post-Confederate state including Alabama adopted a new constitution that disenfranchised the Black population.
The wave of post-Confederate activity was a direct cultural outgrowth of the repression wrought by Southern states against Black people as the Lost Cause cult took hold. This period birthed the “Dunning School” of historical thought that condemned Reconstruction as a corrupt mistake, a view modern historian Eric Foner calls “part of the edifice of the Jim Crow system.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in 1894, was the most prolific organization building Lost Cause monuments. They also enlisted upper- and middle-class white youth and cultural institutions to carry the flame of the Lost Cause through highly influential educational campaigns including endorsing a book that lionized the Ku Klux Klan.
The year 1900, when various post-Confederate groups had their first national convention, began a massive wave of Confederate monument construction on government and publicly accessible property. The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 403 unique monuments constructed to the Lost Cause from 1900 to 1919, over half of all such monuments standing today.
In 1907, forty-four years after the Black Creek crossing, the Gadsden chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy put up the statue of Emma Sansom and Nathan Bedford Forrest overlooking the Coosa River. The Etowah County commissioners court, which today is the Etowah County Commission, also got the Alabama state Legislature to fund the statue. Public money paid for the establishment of this monument and the public must be involved in its disestablishment. This is not a private matter.
We should remember that the City of Gadsden’s establishment of this statue was only accountable to the white citizenry. Black people were unable to vote and enjoy representation during this time due to Jim Crow. It was not a unified city building this monument, but a segregated racial class directed by the torch-bearers of the Lost Cause. Viewing these statues in the context of history, it is clear that their purpose is domination of Black Americans struggling to secure their liberation.
The Sansom and Forrest statue is inextricable from the enslaving power and its twisted descendant ideologies. The statue’s base honorably depicts the man who oversaw the massacre of primarily Black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow which has been called “one of the bleakest, saddest events in American military history.” The public celebration of Forrest’s legacy is shameful, and Emma Sansom’s aid to his cause cannot be separated from its consequences. They supported enslavers against the liberation of millions of Black people.
The McNeel Marble Company of Georgia, which built the statue, clearly stated what it was selling in a Confederate Veteran article for its statues proclaiming “SUPREMACY.” The statue is not a contemporary historical marker; nor is it supposed to be a genuine likeness of Emma Sansom. Rather, the statue is a political provocation built only six years after Alabama’s constitutional change shifted the Jim Crow regime into overdrive. Its purpose has not faded. The statue’s memorial of Forrest and Sansom in 1907 is akin to erecting a statue to segregationist Birmingham leader Bull Connor today, a man who attacked civil rights protesters including children with dogs, fire hoses, and mass arrest in the early 1960s.
These monuments do harm lasting for generations when we forget the underlying causes of division and inequality in society. The roots of Black peoples’ oppression today have a lot to do with the erection and maintenance of that statue, as does the relatively wealthier position of white people in our community. To achieve justice, we must remember and then act in solidarity.
The multiracial movement calling for change in Gadsden is made up of our neighbors. They are not “outside agitators.” They have to live with the Lost Cause’s weight every day—as we all do.
Some white people in Gadsden say they feel a connection to this statue as part of their heritage, and consider the statue part of the fabric of their home. Our Black neighbors are making it clear that they agree, and that is exactly why they need to see change in our community. We want to live in a harmonious democratic society where all can live free of intimidation.
Many people who feel pride about Emma Sansom discuss “division” about the statue like it is a new phenomenon. The outcry against the statue is the voice of an awakened community. They understand that it is time to address the focal points of what has really caused a division in our community for over a hundred years. It only seems like a new “division” to those of us who benefit the most from the “normal” status quo.
We ask those who may feel a sense of pride about the statue to examine if most of their Black neighbors feel the same pride. You may say you are not personally racist and have good deeds to prove it. The statue’s effect in Gadsden is not about anyone’s personal feelings or failings – it is a feature of the systemic oppression that acts to this day against the freedom of Black people.
Gadsden’s population today is more than one-third Black people. What are we doing with a monument that celebrates an achievement meant to keep a third of our neighbors in bondage?
Think beyond your personal experience and towards the whole of the Gadsden community. Can we fulfill our potential as a beloved community if more than one-third of our neighbors are daily reminded that the town celebrates a time when their relatives were enslaved? Removing the statue will take a weight off our backs that we may have never recognized.
The debate that considers these statues as “history” today speaks to the success of the Lost Cause’s cultural hegemony. Yes, we must remember – a history never to repeat. Gadsden does not have to celebrate a man who led the perpetrators of racist terror. We can leave the Lost Cause behind, beginning by removing its symbols that haunt us.
Look to the heartening installation of a memorial four years ago to the memory of Black Gadsdenite Bunk Richardson. In Feburary 1906, Richardson was framed for the rape and murder of a white woman, taken from the Etowah County jail and lynched by a mob of 25 masked men.
This act of racist injustice happened the same year the UDC commissioned the statue of Sansom and Forrest on Broad Street. Identifying and commemorating the victims of injustice is a necessary part of making justice possible, and we can all do it together. Those are the kinds of memorials we need in Gadsden.
We can remove this statue just like other Alabama cities are doing. This month, the mayors of Birmingham and Mobile authorized and executed the removal of Lost Cause statues. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees and the Madison County Commission voted to remove Confederate memorials in recent weeks. The Gadsden community’s task is neither impossible, nor a logistical challenge. It is time to make the moral choice – no more Lost Cause in Gadsden.
What does it look like to tell the story of Gadsden that points us towards justice and away from racialized domination? If the statue of Sansom and Forrest remains standing somewhere when removed from public view, it needs context showing that it celebrates the cause of human enslavement – and that today we want to build a society of liberation for all people.
If we are silent, we are complicit in the ongoing injustice against Black people. As Emma Sansom’s nieces and nephews, the best first step we can take to abolish the stain of white supremacy in Gadsden is to remove this symbol of the enslaving power that once ruled this land. We can eliminate the source of division and fulfill the American promise of a democracy full of equal participants.
We are encouraged by the multiracial makeup of both the BLM protesters and the City Council members calling for the statue of Sansom and Forrest to be moved. The movement calling to take the statue down has already made progress in eliminating racial division by standing together. We stand with them. The promise of a democratic society, where all are created equal, lies after the statue’s shadow over Broad Street has faded. Remove the statue, and let’s get to work on building a beloved community in Gadsden and in the United States.
- Donald Rhea
- William Henry Rhea III
- Marie Rhea Singleton
- Richard Rhea
- Kelvin Knight
- Leigh Ann Rhea
- Nina Ellen Rhea
- Anna Rhea Knight Hopkins
- Karen Lynn Knight Craft
- Preston Rhea
- Holly Rhea Hanks
- Laney Rhea Eskridge
- William Henry Rhea IV