Here’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s lede:
For decades, visitors to the state Capitol have been greeted by a statue of the Georgia populist who gave rural America free postal service – a racist, anti-Catholic politician whose anti-Semitic screeds were credited with fueling sentiment for the lynching of Leo Frank.
A spokesman for Nathan Deal this morning confirmed that the 12-foot statue of Thomas Watson is being permanently relocated across the street, as part of a renovation of the Capitol grounds.
Of course, that report hits Watson hard for being a bigot and dwells on that. If they want to remove statues of any politician who was racist from any capitol building, how many would be left?
Here are some other things Watson did:
As a state legislator, Watson struggled unsuccessfully to curb the abuses of the powerful railroad corporations. A bill subjecting railroads to county property taxes was voted down after U.S. Senator Joseph E. Brown offered to provide the legislators with round-trip train fares to the Louisville Exposition of 1883. In disgust, Watson resigned his seat and returned to the practice of law before his term expired.
As a Populist, Watson tried to unite the agrarians across class lines, overcoming racial divides. He also supported the right of African American men to vote.
The masthead of Watson’s newspaper in 1894 declared that it “is now and will ever be a fearless advocate of the Jeffersonian Theory of Popular Government, and will oppose to the bitter end the Hamiltonian Doctrines of Class Rule, Moneyed Aristocracy, National Banks, High Tariffs, Standing Armies and formidable Navies — all of which go together as a system of oppressing the people.”
It is odd that those that call for moral absolutism when it comes to historical figures (in selective cases) are the ones who are moral relativists when it comes to modern life.
Of course, racist historical figures like Watson are scourges that have to be removed from our collective memory while a eugenics supporter like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, is to be praised.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.