After an impassioned speech calling for unification in the county, Madison County Judge Tony Leago announced during Monday’s County Commissioners meeting that a contentious agenda item to make April Confederate History and Heritage Month in the county had been withdrawn.
The issue had threatened to roil Monday’s meeting, even if the proposal, submitted by Tommy Mayhood as he had for the past number of years, was nothing new, Leago said.
“We’ve been doing this for the past 10 years without a peep,” the judge said during public comments at the meeting. Leago stepped away from his seat as county judge to deliver his speech during the public comments, declaring himself a citizen of the county and not acting in official capacity.
“We can stand as one or we can stand as none,” Leago told attendees in the county courtroom, where the pews were mostly filled.
The proposal, which was included on a meeting agenda circulated on Thursday, sparked an intense outcry on social media and other online pages. Calls were circulated to attend the County Commissioners meeting to voice displeasure at the motion.
“It just blew up and kept going,” Leago said after the meeting adjourned.
The uproar was no surprise to Mayhood, who said he saw it coming.
“I’ve warned them for the last three years this might come some day,” he said. “It was the right thing to do today.”
Before Monday’s meeting, Mayhood sent a letter to Leago to withdraw his proposal.
“As a local property owner of Madison County, it was not nor is my intention to create any turmoil or friction amongst the citizens of Madison County,” he said in the letter to the Commissioners.
Steve Green, president of the local chapter of the NAACP had expressed concern over the proposal in a phone interview on Friday.
“In the current day and time and with the current temperament in the country, I don’t think this would be a good idea,” he said.
Many municipalities and state governments around the country have seen a push in recent years to divest public grounds of Confederate imagery.
Mayhood, a member of both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Sons of Union Veterans, said he understands the concern, though saw his proposal this week as more moderate.
“If it were a statue or something like that, I’d probably feel differently,” he said. Mayhood is a resident of Sugar Land, but owns property in Madison County and remains involved in the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Thomas Jewett Goree Camp, an outpost based in Madison County.
His original agenda item read “Discuss and consider approving a Proclamation for the month of April as Confederate History and Heritage month and flying the First National Flag for that month,” which he has submitted in both Madison and Grimes counties for seven years.
“I thought for a second we were going back about 100 steps,” Green said.
In his speech, Leago highlighted December’s swearing-in of new Midway mayor Brenda Ford, the first African-American to hold the post.
“Midway decided a long time ago it had to be unified to be successful,” Leago, himself a former mayor of Midway, said Monday. “People (of all color) came out to celebrate a great lady.”
A similar mindset is needed in the county, he said.
“This county means more to me than one issue,” Leago said. After his speech, he showed Mahood’s original proposal, which was on a yellow piece of notebook paper.
“It’s just a yellow sheet of paper and it created a fuss,” Leago said. “I’m not going to fall on my sword for a yellow piece of paper.”
In other county moves Monday, the Commissioners approved spending $3,000 in hotel/motel tax funds to advertise the NAACP’s upcoming third annual bike ride.
Commissioners also named Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Steve Cole to the Salary Committee, replacing former Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Lew Plotts, who stepped down last year.