RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case involving the removal of a monument in Asheville that honored Confederate officer and former Gov. Zebulon Vance.
The city’s leaders voted to remove the 75-foot-tall monument in 2021 after it had stood in downtown Asheville’s Pack Square for more than a century.
“This monument no longer has a place in our mountain town. We’ve moved on to the future,” said Dr. Oralene Simmons, who served on a task force that supported removing the monument.
The Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th North Carolina Troops sued the city that same year seeking to block the removal.
Wednesday’s hearing focused mostly on whether that group has standing to bring the case.
H. Edward Phillips, an attorney representing the group seeking to preserve the monument, pointed to a contract his group signed with the city several years ago after they raised more than $100,000 to restore the monument in 2015.
“The intent of the donor and the donor organization are quintessential reasons why standing exists,” said Phillips.
Lower courts have ruled in favor of the city.
Some justices questioned Phillips about the group’s agreement with the city and what obligation the city had to continue to maintain the monument for any specific period of time.
Justice Anita Earls asked, “Are you saying that the contract that was signed by the City of Asheville obligated the city to keep the monument in place for a hundred years or what term of years?”
Phillips replied, “Well, until at some point. I mean, conceivably if they restored it again they could keep it even longer.”
Noel Nickle, who is a descendant of Vance, said she favored removing the monument. She studied her family’s history, finding out about Vance owning slaves and his opposition to the rights of Black people.
“I learned that both sides of my family enslaved people and that Zebulon Vance was my most powerful and racist ancestor,” she said. “Removing the monument does not erase my family’s legacy. It is, however, an important step in repairing that family legacy.”
It could be months until the Supreme Court decides the case.