Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`A Hero Is a Hero!' Confederate Capital Honors Ashe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`A Hero Is a Hero!' Confederate Capital Honors Ashe

Article excerpt

After a month of debate and an emotional hearing, the Richmond City Council voted early Tuesday to erect a statue of Arthur Ashe among the memorials to Confederate heroes on Monument Avenue, the city's grandest boulevard.

The decision, in a vote of 7-0 by the council, came at 1 a.m., after the seven-hour televised hearing.

"We resurrected ghosts we thought had been buried," said Mayor Leonidas B. Young, a black minister. "We have grown, and it is painful to grow."

Some speakers at the hearing said that the 24-foot-tall statue of Ashe, the black tennis pioneer who died in 1993, belonged on Monument Avenue because that was where heroes of Virginia were memorialized. Others said that it was insulting to Ashe's memory to put a statue of him on the same street as shrines honoring the Confederacy.

A third group, some of whom wore Rebel insignia, wanted to preserve the historic integrity of Monument Avenue by putting Ashe's statue in a park where he had once watched white players from behind a fence.

Monument Avenue has not had a new statue since 1929. The five Confederate monuments are so revered by many white Richmonders that Councilman Henry W. Richardson, who is black, said some constituents had accused him of promoting a memorial to Ashe "to spite white folks."

The outcome, in doubt until the last moment, was seen as a sign of racial healing in the former capital of the Confederacy.

"A hero is a hero, whether he was a defeated Confederate soldier or a great humanitarian," said Shirley A. Jackson, 51, a black day-care worker who came to the hearing dressed in African garb. "We call it Monument Avenue, not Confederate Avenue."

Councilman Timothy M. Kaine, a white lawyer, was one of several council members who said their minds were changed by the emotional testimony of about 100 speakers at the hearing. …

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