Racist Relic Rock Removed in Lockhart

Campaign to move Confederate statue finally clicks

The Confederate monument outside the Caldwell County Courthouse
The Confederate monument outside the Caldwell County Courthouse (Photo by Jim Bell (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History))

Lockhart residents are celebrating the removal of a Confederate monument that stood in front of the Caldwell County Court­­house for 98 years. The monument, which has strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan, was quietly relocated to the Caldwell County Jail Museum on Dec. 16.

"Yeah, we got our relic rock moved," said Margaret Carter, a leader of Lockhart's Black Lives Matter activists. "It's right on the street that I was born and raised on, where my family still resides, but we're not disappointed. People say, 'Why move it? Now it's over in your neighborhood and you're still going to see it.' Yeah, but it's not in front of a courthouse where everyone is supposed to be able to go in and believe that justice will be served. That's the ­difference."

Carter has worked to get the monument moved for 15 years, but it never seemed possible until the success of the BLM demonstrations she helped organize last summer. Carter and other Lockhart residents joined with recent Austin transplants including Cody Kimball of Bluebonnet Records, as well as the staff of Mano Amiga, a social justice organization with an office directly across from the courthouse. Together, they got the Caldwell County Commissioners Court to consider the monument's relocation.

Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden leads the five-member court. "I was firmly against moving it," Haden said. "I wanted to leave it where it was and then put a plaque up, just contextualizing what went on – you know, that people in Caldwell County no longer believe in slavery or any of the other things that the Civil War was fought over."

Haden's views shifted as he participated in a citizen's advisory committee formed to study the issue. He and others uncovered articles and advertisements from the Lockhart Post­-Register that described the political atmosphere surrounding the monument's placement in 1923, including a Ku Klux Klan rally three months before it was installed that brought 2,000 people into downtown Lockhart to hear speeches from prominent citizens.

Just as important to Haden's change of heart was the testimony of Sterling Riles, a Black Lockhart resident and veteran with 13 years of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Riles told the commissioners that asking African Americans to accept the monument was like asking Jews to accept a memorial to the Nazis. Haden recalled Miles' remarks: "This stuck with me and resonated with me and this was what ultimately got me off the fence – he just made the comment that 'when I pass that monument I wonder when I come to this courtroom, if I'm going to get a fair shake.' So I certainly never want anyone ever to feel that way coming into the commissioners courtroom."

Ultimately, the commissioners voted 4-1 to relocate the monument. Carter, Kimball, and Mano Amiga helped raise $29,600 to finance the move. Haden is comfortable with the compromise, although it could end his political career. "I think it was the right thing to do," he said. "And if you saw me, I'm standing here with a cowboy hat and jeans on – you wouldn't put my name next to the word 'progressive.' But I'm up for reelection this year and I don't know if it's gonna cost me or not. We shall see."

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