FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Florence County Council on Thursday unanimously rescinded its vote to put a Confederate statue on public property.
Council received outrage from the public and the Florence Branch of the NAACP after its decision last month to put a statue of William W. Harllee and his daughter, Florence in the courtyard of the Florence County Museum.
Harllee was president of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad and served as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor when it became the first state to leave the union. He signed of the Ordinance of Secession and the city and county are named for his daughter.
“I am delighted today that the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee has rescinded their decision to place this statue at the Florence County Museum,” Jerry Keith, president of the NAACP’s Florence Branch said of the update.
Buddy Brand, vice chair of the council, read a letter from the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee requesting the council rescind its vote. The committee is made up of more than a dozen people, including sculptor Alex Palkovich, former city councilman Steve Powers and Gale Harllee Dixon, a descendent of Harllee’s brother.
“The Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee respectfully requests that Florence County Council rescind their previous action,” Brand said, reading the statement. “Our committee sends many thanks to the county council for their support of this historic work of art. It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play and enjoy life.”
According to the committee, more than $140,000 was raised for the statue, which has sat in storage since its creation.
Though Harllee is often credited as Florence’s founder, historical documents show his involvement in the Wilmington & Manchester railroad in the Pee Dee ended nearly two decades before the town was chartered in 1871, and the company was dissolved in 1870.
“The city of Florence was built on the back of the railroad- it was called the Magic City,” Keith said. “Study the history of Florence, understand the history and understand that railroad was built on the backs of chattel slavery.”
Keith called the statue an affront to the African American community and said he is glad people spoke out against its installation on public property.
“This is an example of people standing up for what is right,” he said.
Historical documents also show Harllee raised a brigade for Confederate service in 1860. Those soldiers were known as the “Pee Dee Legion” or “Harllee’s Legion.”
Below is the full letter sent to council by the committee, dated Aug. 15.
“The year is 1852. The young daughter is Florence Henning Harllee, for whom the City and County of Florence are named. The father is William Wallace Harllee, who was a visionary. While his contemporaries in the 1850’s were bent upon preserving the agrarian economy that had brought enormous wealth to generations of South Carolinians and labor that it required, Harllee had a vision for the industrial age. He foresaw that future prosperity would come from the train lines, and industry and growth that they would bring. He was right! That is why Florence today is more prosperous than the older towns in the counties that surround us. Harllee made that pivot for us, and we today are the beneficiaries of his far-sightedness in founding the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad, and naming the Florence Depot after his daughter, Florence.
“This historic Harllee Memorial Sculpture, by Alex Palkovich, is more a monument to our beginning as a railroad town. As a work of art, it depicts a father/daughter admiring the new railroad being built through a pine forest, that is now our City and County of Florence.
“Out of enormous respect for our community and Florence County Council, the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee respectfully requests that Florence County Council rescind their previous action to place the historic sculpture in the Florence County Museum Courtyard. Our committee sends many thanks to county council for their support of this historic work of art. It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play, learn and enjoy life.”
In 2018, the museum’s board voted not to display the statue.
This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.