Park should symbolize all residents who’ve served in all wars

Published 5:12 pm Friday, July 17, 2020

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To the Editor:

I have followed some of the discussion concerning the Memorial Park in Franklin and the Confederate statue there. And I think your readers would appreciate “more of the story,” a bit of oral history from my father, Sol Rawls. I heard this story from him many, many times — from my childhood until shortly before his death.

The Confederate statue had originally been erected at the corner of High Street and 2nd Avenue, was moved later further west on High Street, and moved again to Poplar Springs Cemetery in the 1930s. Shortly after the end of World War II, the Camp family donated the area of the park to the city. At that same time, several Camp family members returned from their service to the nation, including my father, and his cousins Jack Ray, Bob Ray, and Jack Camp. All of them had grown up very close to the area designated to be the park, which had been a horse rink in their younger days. To put it simply, these veterans wanted the service to the nation of the World War II generation memorialized.

They wanted the Confederate statue moved there from the cemetery, but the park was not to be named only for Confederates. So the family asked the city to call it simply Franklin Memorial Park, and honor the men from Franklin who had served in ALL wars, including (at that time) World War I and World War II.

It would be wrong if the park today was only thought of simply because of its largest statue. It should symbolize the duty and service of all Franklin men — and women — white, black and brown — who have served their nation and state in combat. From the Civil War, to the World Wars and Korea, to Vietnam and the Gulf, we should continue to honor the troops from Franklin — all of them. In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Theirs was not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die.”

Waite Rawls

Richmond, Virginia

Rawls is the former director of the American Civil War Museum