The statue of a young man stands with a rifle, facing south, on top of a white stone arch with the words “Our Confederate Soldiers.”
It has stood in Denton’s town square since 1918, but earlier this month the Denton County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to remove and relocate it.
County Judge Andy Eads called the decision a matter of public safety, and said it was to protect the monument from vandalism, as demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd continue across the nation. But it’s hard to imagine the commissioners coming to that decision without the decades of protest by Denton’s Willie Hudspeth.
Sitting on a bench in the square, Hudspeth questioned why the statue was put up to begin with.
“The word O-U-R is on it. ‘Our Confederate soldiers.’ So, who is ‘our?’” he said. “It most certainly isn’t black people. They were trying to get rid of us, or keep us in slavery.”
Hudspeth moved to Denton in 1970 after fighting in the Vietnam War and has been deeply involved in civic life. But he’s best known for his campaign against the statue, which he started in the late ’90s.
He’s spent countless Sunday evenings protesting in the town square. Often, he didn’t have many supporters there with him. A 1999 Denton Record-Chronicle article about Hudspeth’s protest opened like this:
“A rally calling for racial unity at the site of a Confederate monument in Denton attracted more reporters than participants Friday, but its organizer was undaunted.”
Hudspeth’s opinion on what should be done with the statue has changed over the years. He said at first, he wanted the water fountains attached to the arch turned on and a contextual plaque placed nearby. At another point, he wanted the whole thing torn down and tossed out.
Now, he wants to see it preserved, but moved — which is what the county has agreed to do.
“We’re starting a new journey, which is, I’m gonna tell them where that thing should go,” he said.