It took less than $1,000 and under an hour to settle a dispute that’s been ongoing in Denton for two decades.
That’s how long a local activist argued fountains attached to Denton’s Confederate monument used to be functional, and that they mysteriously stopped working when segregation ended.
On Friday, a crew using ground penetrating radar determined water pipes indeed were connected to two fountains at the statue’s base.
That activist, Willie Hudspeth, is head of the Denton NAACP. In 1999, he inquired about the fountain. County Commissioners told him it never worked. Hudspeth’s question was based on the belief that during segregation, only whites were allowed to drink from them.
Hudspeth long has fought for the removal of the Confederate monument.
“We got this thing here, honoring the people who tried to keep me enslaved,” said Hudspeth. “So it just really devastated me.”
Earlier this year, county commissioners voted to keep the monument, which supporters say honors soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War. Historical context outlining the area’s racial struggles will be added to the area near the statue at some point.
Hudspeth says he was surprised to receive a call this week, letting him know the county would test for the existence of the pipes. He says despite being told otherwise, he always believed blacks were prohibited from using the fountain when it worked.
“I’d already talked to people in my neighborhood,” he said. “Older people, who said yes, we couldn’t drink from it.”
County officials say a recent sidewalk replacement near the Confederate monument prompted them to move forward with the testing.
“For me this is about transparency,” said Commissioner Andy Eads. “While we had things ripped up, we thought this would be the perfect time to try to get an answer to a longstanding dispute.”
With Hudspeth, county officials and residents looking on, the testing settled Denton’s twenty year dispute. While the county has no plan to do so, Hudspeth’s next hope is for the fountains to be turned on again.
“That would be a good gesture,” he said. “Turn the water on, let everybody drink from it. That would be good.”