REX Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton said she cried Monday when she saw how apparent vandalism had damaged a monument honoring an ancestor of First Lady Michele Obama.
The monument to Melvinia Shields was knocked off its base and was riddled with scratches. There are marks across the top of the memorial and a long scratch going up more than half the length of the monument, which is about 5-feet tall.
Shields was the first lady’s great-great-great-grandmother and she came to the Rex area as a slave in the 1850s. She continued to live in the area after slavery was abolished in the 1860s.
“I am very disappointed that someone defaced the Melvinia Shields Memorial,” Singleton said. “The monument represented out county’s ties to the White House and it hurts to know that someone would do this. The people of Rex and the surrounding community have a lot of pride that we have this connection to the first family.”
The incident happened sometime last weekend and Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter said there is an open investigation into what happened to the monument.
“We don’t take it lightly and I don’t think the Clayton County community would take it lightly to be damaging such a historical monument,” Porter said.
A year ago, county officials and white and black members of the Shields family gathered in the Historic Rex Village for the monument’s dedication. At the time, Georgia Tourism Director Bruce Green likened Shields’ story to a companion piece to another tale of early Clayton County history — Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind.”
Both the real life story of Shields and the fictional story of Scarlett O’Hara give modern day residents a well-rounded view of mid-19th century Clayton County, at a time when the county was just being formed.
Singleton said the company that created the $6,500 monument has made it upright again, but she said they will have to remove the monument temporarily to repair the scratches on its face. She could only speculate as to who did the damage.
However, she said residents should come together to teach the responsible party or parties to be better members of the community.
“If I had to guess who would do something like this, I would say that the damage to this memorial was done by a bored young person who felt this was some kind of prank,” said Singleton. “While I believe this person should receive whatever punishment the law allows, I would love to meet that person. I believe that the community will be willing to work together to hopefully put this person on the right track.”
Porter said anyone with information about who vandalized the monument should call police at 770-477-3600.