Four men speak against city’s lynching marker authorization; mayor responds
During the latest Statesboro City Council meeting, four men protested the council’s vote last month to allow a lynching memorial to be placed outside City Hall, and Mayor Jonathan McCollar responded.
The marker, a project of the Statesboro-Bulloch Remembrance Coalition in collaboration with the Montgomery, Alabama-based nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI, has not yet been made or erected. After receiving a very rough draft of the text that included more information than would actually fit on the marker and hearing from Remembrance Coalition members, the City Council voted 4-0 on February 21 and approved an easement allowing that the marker could be placed, eventually, on city property near the front of city hall.
This topic was not on the March 21 agenda, but four of the five speakers who signed up to speak during the public comment opportunity for non-agenda topics spoke about the marker. Some of the speakers suggested placing a marker commemorating five members of the Hodges family who were killed in 1904. In Bulloch County’s most notorious lynching, Will Cato and Paul Reed were convicted by all-white juries in speedy trials on August 15 and 16, 1904, and sentenced by a judge to be hanged at a later date. But a white mob then seized them – apparently with the help of some of those who were supposed to guard them – marched them north of town and burned them at the stake.
However, the marker proposed by the Remembrance Coalition would actually mark nine local lynching victims, who were killed from 1886 to 1911. This includes three other Black men, who are not known to have been charged with crimes, who in August 1904 was killed by groups of white people.
The first of Tuesday night’s four speakers was Jeffrey Marshall Webster, who administers a “White Heritage” social media group. During the meeting of February 21, he was the one speaker against the marker.
“Councilmen, four weeks ago you approved a historical marker commemorating victims of lynching more than a century ago, says marker to be paid for by Equal Justice Initiative, a far-left group funded by George Soros,” Webster said. “Two of the so-called victims on this marker are these men, Paul Reed and Will Cato, who in 1904 killed Henry Hodges, pictured here with his family, in the course of a robbery.”
In 1904, Reed’s wife told an account of events that helped convict her husband and Cato. Webster said that Reed and Cato raped and killed Hodges’ wife and their 8-year-old daughter, who offered them a nickel to spare her life, and “set fire to the house and burned the two baby boys to death.”
He said that some visitors to the Hodges’ grave leave nickels.
“For reasons of leftist ideology and shameless political pandering, you have chosen not only to incite racial animus, but to spit on the graves of the Hodges,” Webster told the council. “I suggested that to ameliorate the desecration, you approve a marker on city property commemorating the Hodges. You clearly refused to do so. …”
He then left a nickel on the lectern to the council court, a gesture that was repeated by at least two of the other speakers. The others were Jay Braswell, Randall Moon and Mike Mull.
Braswell said he was born in Bulloch County and plans to be buried here, but hasn’t lived here in 50 years. He said that “people acted in the heat of the moment” by killing Reed and Cato and noted that it took place 119 years ago.
Moon, Webster and Mull were active in Sons of Confederate Veterans Ogeechee Rifles Camp 941, with Mull serving as the group’s longtime commander, but that organization was not named Tuesday.
“One thing this board overlooks is the fact that Will Cato and Paul Reed were tried, convicted and sentenced to death for murdering five members of the Henry Hodges family,” Mull said. “That’s more than Cato and Reed gave those five innocent people.”
Mull added that he wouldn’t say that Cato and Reed got what they deserved because the Bible says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” but that the council should remember that they “did not meet their fate came because they sang too loudly at choir practice.”
Moon also talked about the Hodges murders and left a nickel behind.
The mayor then said he was taking “a point of privilege” to answer and that there had been “some misinformation” regarding the marker.
“There is no glorification of any of the acts that took place here,” McCollar said. “This is a body that doesn’t say we want to glorify anything, so let’s be clear about that.”
Of “the tragic incident that happened to the Hodges family, I will be the first to say it was a terrible, terrible case,” he continued. “But what we’re talking about is lynching, not Cato and Reed. We’re talking about lynching, and those two men happened to be two of the nine people who were lynched, and it would be a totally different conversation if the state was able to carry out its form of justice, but that’s not what’s happening do not have .”
After Cato and Reed were burned at the stake, “it didn’t stop there,” McCollar said. “That same body, for 30 days, for the month of August, continued to terrorize this community, and they lynched not one, not two, but three individuals. They beat and beat people in this community. This is wrong, and this is what we are addressing.
“We are not saying what happened to the Hodges family is excused by any act, but what we are saying is the lynching that took place in this community of those nine souls and other individuals we cannot even identify was wrong. ” he continued.
McCollar noted that Germany has memorials reflecting on the Nazi era and acknowledged that “what happened to our Jewish brothers and sisters was wrong.”
Mull, who said he did not want to be misquoted, handed the reporter a copy of his remarks after the meeting. In a second paragraph, which he also delivered to the mayor and council, Mull said “Charles Darwin had a good grasp of the current waking culture” and recited what he indicated was a quote from Darwin:
“At some point the human species will split. While most will continue to evolve, a minority of these who lack the intellectual capacity for thought will evolve as a subspecies, easily led, forming into packs that try to control the majority. They will deny biology, seek to undo centuries of human development by rewriting history and gradually return to their primate origins. …”
But PolitiFact, the fact-checking website operated by the Poynter Institute, in a check of this quote dated March 22 from a March 15 Facebook post that referred to it as “WOKE explained by Darwin,” rated it fake as a Darwin quote. PolitiFact contributing writer Ciara O’Rourke said that the quote does not appear in any of five books or a series of essays by Darwin and that PoliFact could find no other evidence of it online.
However, Webster was correct about George Soros, a well-known billionaire contributor to progressive or liberal causes, being a supporter of EJI. The New York Times reported on July 13, 2020 that the Open Society Foundations, which Soros founded, is investing $220 million in programs aimed at achieving racial equality in the United States, including EJI.