Community of Anderson, S.C., is Finding Ways to Get Along — Taking Down a Confederate Statue is Not One of Them

A statue of William C. Whitner, an engineer who helped bring electricity to Anderson, stands in front of a 35-foot Confederate statue. Both are located in front of the Anderson County Courthouse in Anderson City, S.C. (Capital News Service/Lindsey Feingold)
A statue of William C. Whitner, an engineer who helped bring electricity to Anderson, stands in front of a 35-foot Confederate statue. Both are located in front of the Anderson County Courthouse in Anderson City, S.C. (Capital News Service/Lindsey Feingold)

ANDERSON, S.C. — After the third hour of a one-man tour of this southern city, Joey Opperman is still full of stories — a labor strike in the factory building, the youth teams that played on a particular baseball field, political decisions 35 years ago that shaped the area today.

County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, also on the tour, looks exasperated. “Joey, how can you even remember these things?”

Opperman, 36, smiles but says nothing.

Driving around Anderson, Opperman stopped the car at least five times. He greeted firemen in the low-income area of Homeland Park and a retired couple practicing canoeing to music.

He recited the history of certain churches, bridges, lakes and factories: Frigidaire, Electrolux, First Quality Papers and others that offer evidence of Anderson’s economic reliance on textiles, which during the Civil War era meant cotton and slavery.

A public defender and lifelong resident, Opperman pays attention to everything. He knows everyone and talks to everyone. He left town for college but came back, drawn by Anderson’s small-town feel, he said. With about 200 open cases, he knows a large chunk of the population and as such makes a good spokesman for how town residents feel about sensitive issues — like the 35-feet-high Confederate statue standing in front of the county courthouse.

“My sense is people are not talking about that right now because they are trying to find ways to get along better, and whenever that conversation comes up, everybody gets upset,” said Opperman, smoking another cigarette. “So everybody is trying to be less upset for a little while now.”

If it were up to him, Opperman said, he would remove the statue, but he insisted now is not the right time to even discuss moving it.

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SOURCE: LINDSEY FEINGOLD and ROBBIE GREENSPAN
Capital News Service