“Now that New Orleans has toppled its statue of Robert E. Lee, Asheville should take a hard look at the man we honor in our city’s most prominent public space….
“[The name of] Zeb Vance, North Carolina’s Civil War governor, is carved into the granite obelisk rising above Pack Square….
“Bringing down the monument has symbolic appeal, but it would be politically difficult and may not be necessary. After all, it is not a statue of a man but a simple spire that could be rededicated to a new cause.
“For a start, the city could place, near the monument, a historical marker that gives an unflinching account of Zeb Vance’s life and legacy. Another plaque detailing the city’s African-American heritage could be added as well.
“And then I’d propose that the city rename the obelisk.
“With the simple addition of two letters, the Vance Monument could become the Advance Monument….”
— From “The Advance Monument: A proposal for Asheville’s Vance problem” by Mark Essig in the Asheville Citizen-Times (June 3)
This wouldn’t be the first time Vance’s name had become part of an Advance.
“A statue of evangelist and pastor to presidents Billy Graham is expected to be installed inside the U.S. Capitol after his death. The statue would replace that of Charles Aycock, a North Carolina governor who championed public education but was also a prominent white supremacist….
“It’s likely that few people will be offended by the honor extended to Graham since he was one of the dominant religious figures of the 20th century, said William Martin, a sociologist at Rice University and a biographer of Graham.
“Martin said he has been retained by ABC since 1995 to be available to the network on an exclusive basis at the time of Graham’s death.
“Graham [at age 96] has been mostly out of the public eye for several years.
“ ‘Outside evangelical circles, knowledge of him is waning daily,’ Martin said. ‘Ten years ago, before I retired from teaching, a minority of my students recognized his name.’ ”
— From “A statue of Billy Graham will likely replace a white supremacist’s statue in the U.S. Capitol” by in the Washington Post (Sept. 21)
The state’s other honoree in Statuary Hall, Zeb Vance, will remain in place, although his own support of white supremacy was just as unequivocal as Aycock’s — e.g., “Even the mind of a fanatic recoils in disgust and loathing from the prospect of intermingling the quick and jealous blood of the European with the putrid stream of African barbarism.”
In Asheville, meanwhile, some are looking askance at the 119-year-old Vance Memorial in Pack Square.
On this day in 1863: In a letter to Jefferson Davis, Gov. Zeb Vance argues that antiwar sentiment in the state can be appeased “only by making some effort at negotiation with the enemy.” Davis’s response: Lincoln has refused to negotiate and demanded unreasonable peace terms.
Confederate military defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg have spawned some 100 public meetings in 40 N.C. counties. Although the state will sacrifice more than its share of men in battle, enthusiasm for the war has been from the beginning far from universal, and Vance is continually at odds with Davis over states’ rights.
— Discomposed by historical presentism, Democrats cut ties to Aycock — will Vance be next?
— Wilmington’s elegantly downscale Carolina Apartments are remembered for their part in “Blue Velvet.” I was treated to a look inside in 1996, when my wife, Dannye Romine Powell, interviewed artist Claude Howell, who not only lived there but also had been born one floor up in 1915.
— A mention in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” ought to be legacy enough for any man, don’t you think? But there’s more.