Veterans Sue South Carolina over Segregated Memorials in Honor of Soldiers Killed in World Wars

Saturday, May 30, 2015
Greenwood County war memorial separates soldiers as "White" or "Colored" (AP photo)

A South Carolina town trying to replace memorials that segregate the war dead into “white” and “colored” soldiers is being stymied by a state law forbidding such monuments from being changed.


Memorials for the dead of World Wars I and II of Greenwood, S.C., are owned by American Legion Post 20 but sit on property owned by the city. There are replacement plaques in hand, paid for by private donations, but the South Carolina Heritage Act, passed in 2000 to allow the Confederate battle flag to be flown over the statehouse, is preventing the switch.


Five American Legion members are now suing (pdf) the state so the plaques can be replaced. The plaintiffs point out that other plaques honoring Korean War veterans and others do not segregate people based on their race or color. “Plaintiffs believe the racially segregated plaques of the earlier wars are tragic reflections of former times and no longer legitimate, as shown by abandonment of the practice on the plaques of more recent wars,” the complaint says.


State Sen. Floyd Nicholson, who is black and was once Greenwood’s mayor, has introduced legislation to amend the Heritage Act so the monuments can be changed, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposal got nowhere.


Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams, told Courthouse News the state’s position is wrong. “It’s a huge overreach by the state legislature to tell a group of great Americans what they can or cannot do with a monument they paid for,” Adams said. “We have always been a property rights state, but somehow it seems that our elected state representatives have forgotten that.”

- Steve Straehley, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Vets Say S.C. Law Protects Racist Monument (by Dan McCue, Courthouse News Service)

Greenwood Residents to Sue State Over Segregated War Plaques (by Chris Trainor, Free Times)

Racially Segregated War Memorial Plaques Divide South Carolina Town (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)

Thomas Waller v. State of South Carolina (Court of Common Pleas Eighth Judicial Circuit (pdf)


Leave a comment