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Iris Gay Jordan (National Geographic / YouTube)
Iris Gay Jordan (National Geographic / YouTube)

'I’m not a bigot’

Daughter of Civil War soldier takes on the fight to save Confederate monuments

By WITW Staff on July 10, 2017

Iris Gay Jordan, 94, is one of the last bastions trying to safeguard a history that she feels is on the verge of being erased completely. Her father, Lewis Gay, was a soldier for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He survived three battles fighting for a cause he believed in. As the fate of statues and other memorials honoring Confederate soldiers continues to be the subject of heated debate and protests, Jordan is adamant that attempts to erase history — no matter how divisive — does the country a disservice.

“My family died for it and that should stand for something,” Jordan told NBC News when asked whether or not she feels that Confederate monuments should remain standing. According to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, more than 1,500 symbols and monuments of the Confederacy currently stand in public spaces, at least 700 of which are statues. While some cities in the South have begun the slow process of removing these monuments, there is a significant number of people who are vehemently opposed to doing so.

Having dedicated her life to helping rescue and find adoptive homes in the United States for children from countries like Guatemala, South Korea, and Ecuador, and whose own great-grandchildren have roots in India, Jordan says that one doesn’t need to look any further than her own family to see she is not a bigot. For Jordan, the fight for how the Confederacy will be remembered is a fight to honor her heritage, not perpetuate racism.

Jordan’s father was 82-years-old when she was born. She said he never owned slaves and lived with his family in a small town outside of Lake Butler, Florida, where residents of all colors were mutually dependent on one another for survival. Her father’s tombstone — engraved with the initials C.S.A (Confederate States of America) — could also be perceived as offensive and subject to removal and she worries that the sacrifices made by her family will be written out of American history. “In another 50 years they won’t even know there ever was a Civil War, probably,” she said.

Two years ago, Jordan appeared in a show on the National Geographic channel called Civil War Children during which she spoke at length about her father, a topic that still makes her very emotional. Watch the episode below.

Read the full story at NBC News.