by Leah Small
Melvin Jones, who spearheaded plans to bring a statue of Maggie Walker to Broad and Adams streets, says a landmark tree in the area planned for the sculpture must come down.
He’s another voice in the debate over whether to remove the southern live oak or have it stand next to Maggie Walker.
The city also plans to turn the area around the statue into a memorial plaza and wants to close a portion of Brook Road that fronts the triangular intersection to do so. The road closure is another issue that has sparked heated discussion.
But plans aren’t finalized. The city will hold a public meeting Jan. 12 to gather feedback on the design of the plaza, with plans to complete the project this year.
Jones, who worked for more than five years to gather community and city support for the project, took a different position in a December interview with Style, in which he said the tree could be “cut back” so that it could stand near the statue with no problem. Now he says he regrets his previous remarks and calls them “conciliatory, off-handed comments” in a letter to the editor.
Mayor Dwight Jones took a different position than Jones when he added his name to a petition to save the tree.
Here’s the full letter from Melvin Jones:
In regards to your Dec. 11 article “Maggie Walker’s Biggest Fan” I am writing to clarify my position regarding the oak tree at Broad and Adams streets. My understanding has always been that the oak tree would be removed to ensure that there would be a 360 degree view of Mrs. Walker with a lighted statue.
Those who have signed the many petitions that I have circulated to support the statue would have expected the same, I’m sure. I regret that I made conciliatory, off-handed comments regarding trimming the tree. After considerable thought, the tree and statue cannot coexist, based on my initial vision for the statue and the plaza.
The focus of this plaza needs to be Mrs. Walker, in her full glory, so her likeness will remind us of her achievements in context with the African-American history of the Jackson Ward community. She needs to be the centerpiece and the exclusive focus of the plaza to honor her and the much beloved community whose values were the heart of Jackson Ward.