A Confederate soldier statue on the Bentonville square will be moved to a private park near the Bentonville Cemetery, according to an agreement announced Monday (June 1) between the Arkansas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Benton County Historical Society.
The controversial statue was placed on the Bentonville square in 1908 and was mistakenly considered by some as a statue of former Arkansas Gov. James Berry who took office in 1882. The statue is not of Berry, but is a common statue that is seen in many city squares and on courthouse lawns in the South. Berry helped pay for the statue, and a small plaque upon it in his honor following his death in 1913.
“We appreciate the spirit of this decision of the UDC, and we are prepared to play an important role in preserving the monument in an appropriate way to commemorate Governor Berry as well as our State and county history,” Benton County Historical Society Chair Leah Whitehead said in a statement.
The private park, according to a statement from Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen who represented the UDC, will be named “James H. Berry Park.” Gov. Berry is buried in the Bentonville cemetery.
“The process to relocate the monument will begin in August after the UDC submits an application under the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to maintain the monument on the National Registry of Historic Places,” noted the statement from McCutchen. “After relocation, the Benton County Historical Society will own and operate the park and display the monument for the benefit of the residents of Benton County and the rich Civil War history of the Northwest Arkansas region. The UDC will continue to own the monument.”
Jason Hendren, an attorney in Rogers with Wright Lindsey & Jennings, and public advocate for removing the statue from the square, praised the agreement.
“The push for freedom continued today with the courageous decision to relocate the statue from the Bentonville square to a more appropriate location. I sincerely thank and congratulate local leaders for doing the right thing,” he said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.
Hendren does maintain his dispute with who owns the statue.
“Public records confirm that Benton County owns the statue, so if the UDC or some other private entity claims ownership of it, they owe Benton County more than a century’s worth of property taxes,” Hendren noted in a recent essay about the statue.
McCutchen said the agreement can be a guide for “other communities to follow and also a model of peace, civility, and respect.”
There is a similar statue on several public spaces in Arkansas, including the grounds of the Sebastian County Courthouse in Fort Smith.