Decades later, ‘Uncle Sam' billboard still sparks debate

By: Kipp Robertson, MyNorthwest

Updated:

A two-sided billboard in Chehalis that became notorious for the arch-conservative views posted on it continues to stir up passersby decades later.

The latest message reads:

Freedom is dangerous!
Slavery is peaceful!

The billboard sits on private property along I-5 near Exit 72. The late Alfred Hamilton began posting his views in giant letters after the state cut through his turkey farm in the 1960s.

Hamilton died in 2004. The Chehalis Journal described Hamilton’s views after he died.

“Mr. Hamilton Minced no words in attacking virtually everything and everyone that irritated him: gun control, the government and gays, Russians and radicals, Kissinger and Kerry,” the paper wrote.

A lengthy discussion about the latest message ensued on KIRO Radio’s Facebook page, after a photo of the billboard was posted. Some commenters question whether the message should be taken literally, or if there is a deeper meaning, such as a play on Thomas Jefferson’s quote — “I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.”

Though Hamilton’s messages have always been controversial, the latest has many wondering if the billboard should be removed.

The state has wondered the same thing. In the last 1970s, the state made an attempt to have the billboard removed. The state sued the Hamiltons, arguing that it violated the Scenic Vistas Act because it was “used to display political and religion commentary.”

However, the state failed to have the giant white billboard removed, after the state’s Court of Appeals found that it was being used for advertising activities conducted on the property, which falls in line with the law.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is again asking the state’s Office of the Attorney General to look into the matter. A spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that the state has asked the AG’s office for an opinion.

The AG’s office would not disclose additional information.


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