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Judge attempts to broker compromise in cemetery case

By Walter Geiger Friday’s hearing in Lamar superior court on the proposal to relocate at least 103 graves from historic Wadsworth-Clayton Cemetery to make room for industrial expansion resulted in no presentations by either side as Judge Tommy Wilson sought valiantly to forge a compromise. ’I try to get people to resolve things before I get involved,’ Judge Wilson said as he separated those claiming to be direct descendants of those buried at the cemetery which dates back to the early 1800s. There were a handful, including a representative of the Seminole Indian nation. ’I see a cemetery at the center of 123 acres. We all know it has been messed up. I have seen the pictures from last year. I would hate to look at my kinfolks’ graves with a bunch of other stuff around. My folks have been in Monroe County since the early 1800s,’ Judge Wilson told the assemblage. He then suggested the descendants go to the adjacent commission meeting room and meet face to face with the city delegation. ‘The lawyers are free to go back there but I would rather they not. Nobody ever gets what they want in these things,’ the judge added. At first the descendants balked. ‘We had a perfectly fine cemetery and the city tore it up,’ noted Ed Furr, attorney for Cynthia Wadsworth. ‘I’m not sure some us want to talk to the folks from the city who desecrated our cemetery,’ Wadsworth added. They alleged the city has restricted access to the cemetery and was asking visitors to sign in and out. Obviously displeased with that information, the judge persisted and both sides eventually adjourned to the commission room with their lawyers in tow where they spent the next 45 minutes trying to hash things out. The judge then met with the attorneys in the commission room for about 25 minutes. When all had returned to the courtroom, Judge Wilson postponed further arguments until July 27 at 9 a.m. He urged both sides to continue to work on a compromise. ’I am relying on the attorneys to talk to y’all. I can’t talk to all of you. I am going to make the decision. I want to make the right decision. Nobody ever wins in these things,’ Judge Wilson said. After adjournment, all the parties felt at least a little progress had been made. ’We would be willing to work with them but it seems their only objective is to dig our ancestors up,’ Wadsworth said. ’I think we made some headway. We shall see,’ mayor Peter Banks added. ’I am hopeful. I think we made a little progress. We will see if anything comes of it,’ added another direct descendant Mike Ross. His attorney, John Strauss, agreed. ‘Yes, I think we made some progress but whether it will come to fruition I am just not sure,’ Strauss concluded.

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