Judge removes confederate portrait from Stuart courtroom

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STUART (WSLS 10) - A Patrick County judge made a controversial decision to take down a portrait of the town of Stuart's namesake, Confederate General Jeb Stuart. Consequently, the people of Stuart were fired up after the decision, made Tuesday by Judge Martin Clark.

Stuart's memorial stands outside of the courthouse, across the street from Stuart Baptist Church. Locals said taking down the portrait denies the town it's heritage.

"It would be like denying Vietnam ever happened," one local said.  "Young kids and everything got killed, but that war happened. The government doesn't like to admit it, but the war happened."

The judge denied a request for an on camera interview, but in a statement said "it is my goal and my duty as a judge to provide a trial setting that is perceived by all participants as fair, neutral and without so much as a hint as prejudice….confederate symbols are simply put offensive to African Americans."

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Local historian Thomas Bishop met with the judge Thursday about the decision.

"We respect his position on this," Bishop said.

Respectfully, Bishop said he disagrees with the judge. He said Stuart is held in high regard for his role in history, not as a symbol of hate.

"He was a local hero. We don't ever connect it with slavery. It's been said that he had slaves, but to my studies he owned no slaves," Bishop said.

The court denied a request to see the painting, and refused to say where it was stored. They did provide a picture of the portrait.

Now, the main concern from local people is where the portrait will go, and how their native son and namesake will continue to be preserved.

Ultimately, what happens to the portrait will be up the county. The portrait was currently in possession of Patrick County. A public discussion will be held at the next county board of supervisors meeting on September 14.

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