The crusade to tear down the iconic Saturn 1B rocket greeting travelers entering Alabama from Tennessee on Interstate 65 may have a legal hurdle to overcome.
Despite pleadings from Alabama Tourism Department director Lee Sentell and others that there is no other choice than to bring the rocket down, it may be protected by the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.
Reportedly, the rocket was donated in 1979 to the state by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and has been a fixture at the rest stop for the past 44 years.
Given it has been in place for more than 40 years on public property, State Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) argues the rocket qualifies for protection under the law.
"I would believe it would," Butler said during an appearance on "Rightside Radio." "But intentionally by design, anything that is over 40 years, there is no recourse whatsoever. And it was intentionally done that way. It protected Confederate monuments. It also protected civil rights monuments, street names, school names. There was an authority we put together for stuff younger than that that you could appeal to and go through. But if it is over 40 years old, there is absolutely no recourse."
Butler, the House sponsor of the 2017 law, acknowledged the Alabama Supreme Court recognized only a $25,000 fine for removing monuments protected under the act. However, he said the Saturn 1B rocket, located at the rest stop 28 miles northwest of Huntsville, represents the Rocket City.
"[T]he design was -- history is history," he added. "And everybody knows Huntsville is the Rocket City. I love that when you come in there, you know you're back home when you see the rocket. But I would think that you are 100% right that it most likely is protected."
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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