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Ninety-nine years ago, Democrat Sen. John Walter Smith of Maryland provided $50 of his own — not government — money to help erect a cross in his home state.
He was responding to a request from Mrs. Martin Redman, a mother who had lost her son in World War I.
Men - Prince - George - County - Lives
To honor him and the 48 other men from Prince George's County who had lost their lives in the war, she had joined the Prince George's Memorial Committee, whose goal was to erect a memorial not far from the Maryland border with the District of Columbia.
In a thank-you note, she told the senator that her son "lost his life in France and because of that I feel that our memorial cross is, in a way, his grave stone."
American - Legion - Brief - Supreme - Court
Indeed, as the American Legion pointed out in a brief to the Supreme Court (which appended Redman's letter), "the Peace Cross's private builders used a cross to mirror the gravemarkers under which their loved ones were buried abroad."
In an opinion released last week, Justice Samuel Alito noted that "the local post of the American Legion" took over responsibility for building the memorial in 1922, when the committee's fundraising lagged. The memorial — "a 32-foot tall Latin cross" — was finished in 1925.
Pedestal - Alito - Bronze - Plaque - Monument
The pedestal, Alito wrote, "features a 9- by 2.5-foot bronze plaque explaining that the monument is 'Dedicated to the heroes of Prince George's County, Maryland who lost their lives in the Great War for the liberty of the world."
"The plaque," noted Alito, "list the names of the 49 local men, both black and white, who died in the war."
Years - Cross - Maryland - Control
Thirty-six years after the cross was completed, Maryland took control of it.
"In 1961, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the Cross and the land on which it sits in order to preserve the monument...
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