Thursday, November 19, 2020 8:33 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
WAXAHACHIE, Texas (AP) — A Black official in north Texas is getting a private office after speaking out about being moved to a shared work space that was near a “Negroes” sign leftover from the segregation era.
Earlier this month, Ellis County Constable Curtis Polk Jr., 42, was given an office space with two sheriff deputies in the courthouse basement. The move came after county commissioners voted on a relocation plan to make space for a new court.
Polk, who is the only Black person and Democrat serving in an elected county-level position, told KTVT-TV that is a “disgrace" for him to have to see the sign every day. He also said he was upset about the move because he is the only elected official in the county without a private office.
Polk previously noted that the basement office was also a security issue because he had to use publicly accessible stairwell to store documents, which prompted him to buy a fireproof safe.
On Tuesday, Ellis County Judge Todd Little said in a video that the sign is located near an area that used to have a water fountain. It was the only fountain Black people were allowed to use in the courthouse. Near the sign, a placard explains that the sign was kept after it was uncovered during a courthouse restoration almost two decades ago.
“Why did our previous leaders do this?” Little said in the video. “I would suggest the signage was kept so the evil of requiring people of another color to drink at an alternate water fountain would never happen again.”
During a live-streamed interview on Wednesday, Polk said that he and Little found a solution to his problem. That same day, the sign was covered up.
“It was good to work together to move forward,” Polk said during the livestream. “Once me and the judge sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk, he saw fit to give me this office, which is one of his offices, and he was willing to make things right.”
Little said the commissioners’ goals in the office relocations were “never to offend Curtis or his people.” However, he admitted that their plans “were not well thought out.”
Little said the county’s historical commission will decide the sign's fate.
“If something like this is something that is too painful for us to view in the future, then we’re open to changing it,” Little said.