(Editor’s Note: The reprint of this story which first appeared on the St. Landry Now.com website contains a correction about the Confederate monument committee. The error is regretted. The correction is one we are pleased to make.)
A lost letter apparently mailed by an Opelousas businessman to the parish months ago, suggests a possible solution for a courthouse Confederate monument issue that has been debated for over a year and a half.
Martin Roy Jr., now well into his 90’s, wrote several months ago that he would like to see the monument rededicated as a war memorial which recognizes soldiers who have died in all wars from the 18th century until the present, according to District 9 parish council member Wayne Ardoin.
The letter, unsigned and written in longhand on loose leaf paper, indicates that the monument could also recognize first responders and display a hopeful message that there might be no more deaths for those asked to fight in future wars.
Ardoin said he was unaware of the unsigned letter until last week until he was approached by Roy during the unveiling of the courthouse renovations.
“Mr. Roy came up to me during the ceremony and mentioned that he had mailed a letter to the parish some time ago and he wondered where it was,” Ardoin said during a regular Parish Council meeting.
Ardoin said he later obtained a copy of the original letter from Roy. Ardoin then read the letter during the end of the Council meeting.
In the letter Roy wrote that his ideas for the monument will perhaps “save (the parish) a couple of thousands of dollars and maybe make hundreds of people happy.”
Roy adds in the letter that his plan is to “rededicate the monument to the wonderful people that paid the ultimate price. We have been in wars it seems, forever…What a wonderful gesture to honor these people. Another idea: How about our first responders who are always there for us in time of need.”
Council members took no action on the content of the letter written by Roy.
The Monument Matter
The Council however has recently agreed to form a committee – one from selections by council member Nancy Carriere and another created by Opelousas attorney Tommy DeJean – in order to perhaps bring the issue to a conclusion.
Carriere did not attend the Council meeting last week.
DeJean said that his committee members include himself, David Richard, representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Link Savoie, representing parish veterans and Don Reber, a representative for World War 1 veterans.
Although the monument has been portrayed as a statue that salutes St. Landry Civil War soldiers who died during that war, DeJean said his further investigation reveals that there is more to the story behind the original dedication in 1920.
According to DeJean, the monument also recognizes those residents from the parish who died in 1917 to 1919 during World War 1.
“So that monument went up for two reasons. It went up for the Confederate soldiers, but it also went up there for the World War 1 soldiers. Someone from that group needs to have a say on that,” said DeJean.
Carriere, who has not yet publicly revealed her committee representatives, has said at previous meetings that she has encountered individuals who have said that they find the monument offensive.
Monument Debate Background
During action last year, council members voted to donate the monument to the Sons of Confederate veterans.
In a separate vote, the Council also agreed not to spend any parish funds if the monument is removed from Courthouse property.
DeJean has told the Council that experts who remove monuments similar to the one located at the Courthouse, have estimated that it would cost over $300,000 to properly execute a removal without damaging the statue.
Parish president Jessie Bellard has said his research indicates that Police Jury members over a century ago, agreed to donate the courthouse property in order to locate the monument which was paid for by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of The Confederacy.
DeJean has argued that there is no clear evidence about whether the parish or anyone else actually owns the monument.
Council attorney Garrett Duplechain said that it’s his opinion that since the monument has been located on parish property since 1920, that the parish initially owned the statue that has been donated to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.