ELLIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — One month after a historical sign hanging in the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas, was defaced, a mystery YouTube video surfaced — allegedly showing the county judge instructing someone else to do it.
Ellis County Judge Todd Little is accused of vandalism in connection with the spray-painting over of the sign, which reads “Negroes,” and hangs where a water fountain intended only for Black residents used to be, the Dallas Morning News reports.
The sign, Ellis County Commissioner Lane Grayson says, was “left as a historical reminder of a place we should never go again.”
The YouTube video appears to show Little instructing another man, Ernest Henry Walker, to spray-paint over the sign, Ellis County court records indicate.
In a court filing, outgoing Ellis County District Attorney Patrick M. Wilson wrote the spray-painting was an “attempt to obliterate historic, segregation-era signage.” Wilson elaborates, writing that Little is “prominently heard and seen” in the video instructing the spray-painting and then telling deputies to “stand down and take no action.”
Wilson said Little had a “legal duty to prevent the vandalism” and didn’t.
Early estimates show the cost to repair the damage will be around $750, which means possible charges could be felonies.
Neither Little or Walker have been charged and the vandalism case is still under investigation, according to Dallas Morning News. Little was reached out to for comment but could not be reached.
This isn’t the first time the sign has attracted controversy, either.
In November 2020, Ellis County Constable Curtis Polk took issue with his office space being placed near the sign, Dallas Morning News reports.
At the time, Little said the placement of Polk’s workspace wasn’t racially motivated and was only temporary. Polk, the only Black person in an elected position in Ellis County, said the sign was impossible to avoid.
“If it was actually outside, you could drive — take another route where you don’t have to see it,” Polk said. “But to get to my stuff, I have to see it every day, just to get in there to get papers or get supplies out that I need for my daily functions.”
In a video posted to the county’s Facebook page, Little said he was “saddened” Polk was hurt by the placement of his office and that he was “ready to closely with Constable Polk… to united our elected officials and staff no what political affiliation or race, to ensure we continue to do better, and be better by and for each other.”
But Polk said the fact that he was the only elected official without his own office (his workspace was a shared area he had no key to, DMN reports) was unacceptable.
“I felt kind of disrespected, you know, with this move by me being an elected official because, like I said, all of the elected officials have a private office here in this county,” he said. “I’m no better than them, they’re no better than me, so why can’t I be treated the same way that they’re being treated?”
The issue was condemned by the Waxahachie NAACP, Ellis County Democrats and other local organizations.