RICHMOND — Behold the monument of the great Civil War general on horseback! And behold the monument of the great tennis player, apparently preparing to thrash some children with a racquet.
In case you don't know, Ashe was an African-American tennis star, a Favorite Son of Richmond, and a late add-on to Monument Avenue. The other four guys were Confederate generals or, in the case of Davis, presidents.
Jarring, at least to this visitor. Very jarring, and also very understandable.
He learned the game on the public tennis courts of Richmond when he was not allowed into the whites-only clubs. His monument went up in 1996, not without controversy over its appropriateness on Monument Avenue. The Lee monument was unveiled in 1890. The other generals got their due early in the 1900s, when the last of the Civil War veterans were dying. A final salute to the cavaliers who, according to historians, brought their soldiers to tears. At around the same time, the monument to Forrest, who fought mainly in and around Tennessee, went up in Memphis, but Jefferson Davis, notably, didn't get his Memphis monument until 1964.
Richmond went through some of the monument agonies Memphis is going through now. As a visitor, I found it convenient to see all the monuments on one street. I can see how placing a monument to Ashe somewhere else could have been perceived as a snub. But it also struck me as jarring, if only for a moment, in both its placement and pose, and probably as a journalist as much as a tourist. I have the same feeling about adding more statues to Forrest Park.