Williamson County Seal Vote to Come in April

williamson county seal revised

Permission by the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove the Confederate flag on the Williamson County Seal was originally requested by Mayor Rogers Anderson in October 2020. The request came after a study completed by a task force put together by Williamson, Inc. stated that the flag on the seal could be detrimental to the economic development of the community. Sons of Confederate Veterans objected to the action and had the action blocked, as they are considered an interested party in the matter. The hearing before the Commission has been delayed three times, but it is supposed to come up at the April 18, 2022 meeting.

“On February 9, our office learned that the administrative law judge assigned to this case granted a Motion for Continuance of the hearing on the Williamson County Waiver Petition. The Continuance Motion was jointly made by Williamson County and the Major Nathaniel Cheairs Camp 2138 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” said Susan McClamroch, Historic Preservation Specialist, Tennessee Heritage Protection Act and Outreach, Tennessee Historical Commission. “The parties’ motion states that the request is based on the fact that the parties have been involved in extensive good-faith negotiations to resolve the matter via settlement. They also state that additional time is needed to finalize the details of the settlement in an orderly manner. As a result, the administrative law judge has now ordered the hearing be set for the commission’s regular April meeting.”

The Williamson County seal was adopted in 1968. According to the Williamson County website, “the upper left section depicts a flag and cannon, which symbolizes the rich history in the county. The upper right quadrant shows a school house illustrating the importance of education. The lower left portrays a bible in front of a church window, which represents religion. The lower right segment shows farm animals denoting agriculture.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans issued a statement when this conflict began stating their viewpoint on the subject through Joey Nolan, Commander of the Tennessee Division, “The citizens of Williamson County are opposed to the destruction of our history, so I have instructed our attorneys to begin the legal actions to defend the county seal from destruction.”

What brought about the original petition for change were the results of the task force report which took into consideration research on how Civil War symbols have impacted tourism and economic development in other Southern states, as well as responses from more than 800 citizens to a questionnaire regarding changing the design of the seal. The report cites Jackson, Mississippi’s loss of significant convention dollars due to their use of the Confederate symbol on their state flag. The task force feared the same thing could potentially happen in Williamson County if the flag is not removed.

The Tennessee Historical Commission’s Heritage Protection Act, which was approved in 2013, was created with the goal of protecting Confederate monuments and symbols. The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act states that it ensures “no memorial regarding a historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure, or historic organization that is, or is located on, public property, may be removed, renamed, relocated, altered, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed or altered.” However, the public entity “exercising control of a memorial may petition the commission for a waiver…A public entity shall petition the commission for a waiver prior to undertaking any action or transaction…that could foreseeably violate the restrictions imposed…”

It is this act that has brought about the clash between Williamson County and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The organization feels that the move to change the seal is the result of our current “cancel culture” which Sons of Confederate Veterans sees chiseling away at Southern history.

Interested entities, groups, or individuals that wish to provide a written comment on the Williamson County petition for waiver may do so by emailing the comment to: [email protected] to be considered by the Commission at the final hearing in April. Comments must be received before 5:00 PM on April 15, 2022. Those wishing to orally comment must also make their request by emailing [email protected] before the same deadline. The request to comment must include the name of the interested entity, group, or individual. Requesters wishing to make a verbal comment MUST be physically present or be logged on to the WebEx meeting. If a requester is not physically present or logged on to the WebEx meeting when their name is called, they will forfeit their opportunity to comment at this final hearing on this petition for waiver. The Commission will meet at the Tennessee Tower, Third Floor, Nashville Room, 312 Rosa L. Parks Ave., Nashville, Tennessee.