Great-grandson of man in controversial Signal Mountain monument speaks out

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SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WDEF) – If you drive up Signal Mountain on Highway 127, you can see it on the left as you enter the town of Signal Mountain.

The monument is of Signal Mountain founder C. E. James.

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It’s something that town manager Boyd Veal has said he would like moved after he found two old deeds.

James put restrictions within the deeds.

“Within those deeds are the restrictions that property couldn’t be sold, rented or let to anyone of color,” Veal said.

“I’ve gotta say right out, he was no racist,” Stuart James said.

Stuart James is C. E. James’ great-grandson.

“I think it was 1900 to 1905 there was an international consortium of individuals including U.S. Presidents who bought 18,000 acres of property on Signal Mountain. They didn’t, they weren’t able to do anything. They hired my great-grandfather to sell it. When he died he was called a man of integrity,” James said.

“Those kinds of deeds that Mr. Veal found were quite common in this area not only in this area, but nationwide that there would be restrictive covenants in those deeds. We don’t know if the persons buying the property wanted them or how they came to be, but I can find no evidence whatsoever that C. E. James had a racist bone in his body,” he said.

James blogged about the situation and shared a suggestion for town leadership in an attempt to make the place more diverse.

But, he said he feels that moving the monument won’t make Signal Mountain more diverse.

He said he suspects this is more of a political move than concern over someone being racist.

“I am shocked that anybody would come forward and accuse someone of being racist on two 100-year-old documents that you have had over a year and haven’t said a word,” James said.