Nearly two years after it last flew, South Carolina's final Confederate flag remains in the same place it was taken immediately after it was removed from the flagpole in front of the Statehouse: a small, flat white acid-free box behind several locked doors.
That resting place doesn't fulfill any part of the "appropriate, permanent and public display" called for when the South Carolina House passed a late-night resolution that helped assure passage of the bill removing the flag in July 2015.
Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander Leland Summers said Thursday that his group feels like it was swindled twice - first by taking down the flag, and then by politicians failing to keep their promise. "They say there isn't any money because they need to pay for things like education and roads. But I see plenty of money for legislators' pet projects," Summers said Thursday after a meeting of the board that oversees the Confederate Relic Room, where the flag is currently stored.
In the months after the flag was removed, the museum's director brought in architects who proposed a nearly $4 million project. About half the money would have gone to a high-tech display including screens displaying pictures or names of Civil War dead alongside the banner. The rest of the money would have helped with a long-needed overhaul of the museum's display space and a new heating and cooling system for the more-than-a-century-old building, said Allen Roberson, executive director of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
That proposal and its cost did not go over well. Some members of the Legislature threatened to move the museum to the Charleston area during the year after the flag was removed.
This year, legislators have simply ignored the flag. There was no discussion during budget negotiations and Roberson is having trouble even getting them to call him back.
So Roberson told the museum board Thursday that he is going to spend the next several months pushing a proposal to spend just $200,000 to renovate two offices into a display area for the nylon flag so it will have a place of importance for its political value, but also separation from the military relics already on display.
"The staff feels very strongly it is not a military artifact. It doesn't need to be stuck on a wall somewhere in a frame," Robeson said. "A lot of these flags have gunpowder, blood, bullet holes - they were what 18- and 19-year-old boys died fighting under. This is not the same thing."
Meanwhile, the final flag, wrapped in acid-free tissue, sits in a special white box behind several locked doors, tucked in between rows of other stored items not on display in a room where the temperature is always 70 degrees and the humidity is always 50 percent.
"We give it the same care as artifacts that are 150 years old. In fact, it is among artifacts that are 150 years old," said Rachel Cockrell, collections manager for the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
The final flag has been there since July 10, 2015, when a special team of highway patrolmen in dress uniforms pulled it down from the flagpole on the Statehouse's front lawn, wrapped it like a scroll and gave it to Roberson. He took it to a waiting armored van with state agents inside for what is typically a seven-block drive to the museum. On that day there was a second, decoy van and other measures taken as precautions.
The box may be the flag's home for a while. Several politicians who supported taking down the Confederate flag permanently and have sway in the budget process in South Carolina didn't return phone calls.
Rep. Bill Taylor, a Republican from Aiken who voted against removing the flag, said the State needs to fund the display to keep their word to people who see the Confederate Flag as a remembrance of their ancestors who fought in the WBTS.
"It's a broken promise," Taylor said. "There was the expectation by many of the constituents I serve that their Southern heritage would be respected and the flag would find a new place of public honor."
Meanwhile, the painting and repainting of the famous South Carolina Folly Boat continued again this week.
Yesterday, the South Carolina Secessionist Party was seen repainting the Flag image on the Folly Boat again. Painted next to the Flag, the words, "Censorship Won't Work, Mayor Goodwin - the SCSP" and "Remembering Veterans Isn't Politics."
It wasn't long before someone partially painted over the Secessionist Party's note. A smiley face with a black background covered the Flag and, "HAPPY Bday DARIEN!," covered the message to Goodwin later Thursday.
Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said the boat would stay and remain subject to painting and repainting, "as long as everybody is respectful."
MEANWHILE, IN MARYLAND
A petition is circulating to remove a marker commemorating a Confederate general from the lawn of a courthouse.
James Yamakawa, co-founder of Showing Up for Racial Justice Delmarva, has started a petition on Change.org asking the County Council to remove a marker honoring Gen. John Henry Winder from the historic Wicomico County Courthouse.
Salisbury Mayor Jake Day signed the petition and said Winder has no connection to Salisbury. He said Winder is from Nanticoke, and his sign belongs there, if anywhere.
County Council President John Cannon said the placement of the marker might be a decision for the historical society.
If online signatures are any measure of public sentiment, the majority is against the idea.
A counter petition, written and promoted by the conservative local blogger Jonathan Taylor, advocates keeping the sign in place.
"Politically Correctness is striking everywhere and it is important for us to not let this movement take away our History," Taylor begins.
As of Thursday evening, the signature tally stood at 397 in favor of keeping the marker and 193 against.
JUST A LITTLE FURTHER SOUTH
Richmond's mayor wants to talk about the statues on Monument Ave.
On Thursday, he created the Monument Avenue Commission, saying he doesn't want to take any statues down, but that "they don't tell the whole story."
Mayor Levar Stoney said he's created the commission, "as cities across the country grapple with questions on whether to have their statues removed."
The commission will help come up with recommendations on what to do on Monument Ave.
The mayor announced that he has filled the new commission with "historians" (i.e. black activists), artists, authors, and community leaders (i.e. more black activists). The commission will have all of just two public meetings in the next three months before announcing their predetermined plans.
PLEASE PARDON MY EDITORIALIZING
St. Louis can't take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park for at least two weeks, St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled on Monday.
The Missouri Civil War Museum sued the City last week, arguing it is the rightful owner.
Of course, the museum became the "owner" when the United Daughters of the Confederacy deeded the monument to them just last week.
My question is this: WHY?
Why did the UDC deed the statue to the museum, facilitating the monuments removal? Why didn't the UDC retain the deed and challenge the City's ownership?
Remember, that the Museum is just as in favor of removing the Monument as the City. Regardless of who "wins" this court case, the Monument is coming down! Its just a question of who will do the removal!
Had the UDC maintained their ownership the legal battle could have kept that statue up possibly forever. At least a LOT longer.
Anywhoo, Judge Dierker ruled there were enough questions about who owned the statue that work needed to stop. The case is scheduled to go to trial July 6.
What I also can't figure out is why the City is fighting to claim ownership? If they simply recognize the Museum's ownership then the Museum, and not the City, assumes the costs and liabilities of removing the Monument.
The story going to Court on July 6 is that the City gave the Confederate Monument Association of St. Louis permission to put the statue in Forest Park in 1914. Last week, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who held deed to the Monument, gifted the statue to the museum last week. The City's attorney, Michael Garvin, will argue that the 1914 ordinance never mentions the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Museum's lawyer will argue that the Association was the fundraising arm for the Daughters and that is why the UDC, all these years later, still held the deed.
Garvin will argue that both the Confederate Monument Association, which helped raise the money for the monument, and the United Daughters have been absent for more than 100 years, and had therefore abandoned any claim to the statue. "The ordinance says they have to maintain it," Garvin says. "[The monument] has been defaced a number of times, and I've never seen the United Daughters of the Confederacy there to clean it off."
For two years, the museum has offered to remove the monument from the park and store it at its expense, with an eye toward displaying it at the museum or elsewhere, executive director Mark Trout said. He does not understand why Mayor Lyda Krewson is not jumping at the the offer.
Mayor Krewson says she believes the City owns the statue, and rejects the museum's offer because, "The museum had steadfastly refused to allow the city to have any say over how the Memorial would be displayed and in what historical context,"
Museum Director Trout says he is concerned that the city is not doing enough to make sure that the monument isn't damaged beyond repair. For example, he said, if the city had looked at the historical record, it would have known that the center shaft of the monument was a solid piece of granite, and therefore did not need to remove the cap. "Our predecessors installed that monument with primitive tools without putting a scratch on it. And now here we are in 2017, we are drilling holes into the side of the monument," he said of the city's preparations to take it down.
Today, Judge Dierker has said that he is hoping that the trial can be avoided if both sides can agree to settle out of court.
TAMPA'S MONUMENT ALSO STAYS FOR NOW
Hillsborough County's commissioners voted Wednesday 4-3 to keep the monument.
They also voted, after a 3-hour discussion, to add a mural behind the monument to "showcase" what one member called "the love and diversity" in the community.
"If we don't look for a compromise or consensus, there's going to be hatred and anger that could last for decades," Commissioner Victor Crist said. "What I'm going to argue is [the statue] is there and let's make lemonade out of lemons. Let's wrap it in love and let's continue the message of what we have developed into today."
The decision sparked outrage from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn who said, "There is no honor in treason and there is no valor in enslaving people because of their race. That statue represents the worst of humanity not the Tampa that we aspire to be. This decision doesn't speak for our city and the people that I represent."
The recent removal of four statues in New Orleans is what prompted the vote in Tampa, which one attendee of Wednesday's meeting called, "a crazed obsession for radical leftists."
So many other cities in Florida are taking steps to remove their monuments. Wednesday's decision makes Tampa one of the first to decide to keep one.
The commissioners also passed proposals to fund an education program to address racism in the community and protect Hillsborough war monuments from future removal attempts.
On the other end of I-4, in Orlando,
As crews removed a Confederate statue called "Johnny Reb" from Lake Eola Park on Tuesday, they uncovered a time capsule in the base of the statue.
The time capsule was moved to City Hall.
It is unclear what is inside or when the City may open the time capsule.
Cassandra Lafser, who's a spokeswoman for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said the time capsule is very light. It was found in the top part of the statue's base, Lafser said.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy has claimed ownership of the capsule and its contents. The City is not recognizing, nor is it denying, the claim. The Mayor has asked that the capsule remain unopened and safely kept in the City's custody until ownership can be determined. He has asked the City Attorney and a City Judge for their opinions on ownership but there is no indication that the City or the UDC has filed any legal action in the courts. At present, the discussion and "contest" over ownership appears to be friendly and may even result in the Capsule being replaced in the monument when it is relocated to Greenwood Cemetery.
ANOTHER POSSIBLE RELOCATION
Hanceville, Alabama's Mayor, Kenneth Nail, wrote to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, asking him to consider donating their recently removed monuments for display in Veterans Memorial Park in Hanceville. The town of about 3,250 people is about 40 miles north of Birmingham.
Mayor Nail tells The Cullman Times he's heard nothing but positive feedback on the idea from Hanceville residents. "One of my good friends, who is black, even messaged me on Facebook and told me, 'Look, some of my ancestors were forced to fight in that war, and I think it's a good idea to remember these things.' He told me, 'I drive a truck, and I'll even go down there and pick them up if the city needs me to,'" Nail said.
Landrieu's office didn't respond Monday to an emailed request for comment. New Orleans officials have said they will issue a formal request for proposals to host the monuments in "a more appropriate place" than the spots they once occupied.
Mayor Nail said he's only interested in obtaining the monuments if they can be had at little to no cost for his city - and so far, he hasn't heard back about his letter.
"My view is that it's an opportunity, a great teaching tool that we could have in our city," he said. "It's an opportunity for all of us to reflect on all our struggles, and to celebrate how far we've come, while clearly acknowledging that we had those struggles."
FLAG BURNING AVERTED IN NORTH CAROLINA
A resolution condemning the flying of the Confederate Flag over the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department was on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
The resolution was presented to the Board by Sam Martin, chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.
The resolution, titled "Urging Removal of the Confederate Flag, an Anti-American Symbol, from the Uwharrie Fire Department," calls the Confederate flag "a symbol of bigotry, hatred and racism," and a "symbol used in the opposition of civil rights" "often used in alliance with the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi organizations," and flown "as an insult to all people who believe - as our country's Founding Fathers stipulated - that we are all 'created equal.' ..."The resolution then "respectfully requests that the Uwharrie Fire Department immediately remove the Confederate flag from the flagpole and anywhere else on the premises of the Uwharrie Fire Department." If not, it continues, "all available legal sanctions will immediately be pursued through the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners to withhold funding and assistance to the Uwharrie Fire Department. ..."
The Democrats stressed that they "cannot in good faith support funding an organization that: a) promotes symbols rooted in violence and bigotry, b) promotes values which include attacks on American citizens, and c) opposes the core American value of equality for all. ..."For failure to remove the flag, the resolution concludes, "a committee will immediately be established to work with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, for the purpose of analyzing the feasibility of terminating the existing Uwharrie Fire Department and implementing alternative fire prevention services for Uwharrie community residents."
The commissioners did not vote to accept the resolution, nor did they vote to reject it. Rather, they voted to keep it under consideration. This means that the issue will keep resurfacing at subsequent meetings until the matter is resolved.
GEORGIA POLITICIAN DOES NOT WANT RECOGNITION
In just over two months, a statue of the "Reverend" Martin Luther King Jr. will be unveiled on the grounds of the State Capitol in Georgia. The clay prototype has been shipped off to the foundry for the bronze casting.
The photos of the clay modeling show King in mid-stride, book in his left hand, with an overcoat slung over his left arm.
Earlier this month, the time had come to decide who will get credit for the work - aside from the sculptor, Martin Dawe. Governor Nathan Deal's name will be first. The name of State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, will be high up, too. Smyre, the longest-serving legislator in the Capitol, has served as go-between 'twixt the Capitol types and the King family.
On June 2, an email went out to members of the Capitol Arts Standards Commission, a panel of politicians and citizens assigned to approve the design and funding for the statue. Members were told to reserve 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28, for the unveiling, and were asked to approve the spellings of their names for the plaque that will accompany the statue.
Proofreading is important. Typos in stone or metal are notoriously difficult to correct.
Every member of the commission asked did so, except for one. State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson. Benton requested that his name be omitted completely.
We have not reached Benton, so we do not know his motivation for requesting his name not be included on the statue.
Rep. Benton has a solid record having introduced several measures in the Legislature that were aimed at protecting Confederate heritage. Among others, he introduced the resolution to re-establish a formal Confederate Memorial Day as a State holiday.
Another of Benton's bills would have caused streets to revert to their pre-1968 names. An effect of that bill, had it passed, would have resulted in a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlanta reverting to its earlier name of Gordon Road, in honor of Gen. John B. Gordon, a Confederate general and former Governor and Senator for Georgia.
We do know that Rep. Benton sent an article to House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge that was titled, "The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States." The Speaker has reacted by stripping Benton of his leadership position as Chairman of the House Committee on Human Relations and Aging. The speaker also kicked Benton off a study committee on civics education in Georgia's public schools. Ralston had appointed him to the committee earlier this month.
TEXAS UDC EFFORT TO REMOVE MONUMENT BLOCKED
Last Friday the statue on the lawn of the Lamar County Courthouse came under attack by of all group the UDC. But a vote was taken to allow it to will remain in place. The monument features statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston and a Confederate soldier. It has the word "CONFEDERATE" scrawled on the bottom.
To have a Confederate memorial moved, the Texas Historical Commission requires a permit. The Judge held the Friday morning vote to determine if the permit should be obtained.
The vote to have it removed was tied 2-2 with several vocal community members packed into the Commissioner's Court meeting.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy Rufus C. Burleson 2709, Texas Division said they have already paid for a crane to have it removed and the vote shouldn't take place. Which, again begs the question: WHY IS THE UDC OFFERING TO REMOVE THE MONUMENT?
Just as I wonder why the UDC was quick to deed its monument in Missouri to facilitate its removal. Why is the UDC renting heavy equipment to tear down a monument in Texas? It appears that the UDC is actually upset that the Judges voted to keep the monument. Someone please eMail me and tell me that I'm misinterpreting these situations and the UDC's actions in them!
But UDC crane and all, the monument is safe, for now. Judge Maurice Superville Jr. reportedly said: "I think in the near term, it's a nonstarter. I mean that it's not going anywhere. In the near term it's over for now, but in the broader context, it will reemerge."
MEMPHIS MONUMENTS UNDER RENEWED ATTACK
At the center of the debate is the statue of Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest - which sits in a park in the Medical District. Another, a monument dedicated to Confederate President Jefferson Davis at a park downtown.
Nearly two years ago, the Memphis City Council voted to remove the statue of Forrest, but that was stalled by politicians and the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC).
Now, a new petition has started calling once again for the removal of the statues.
TV station WREG claims to have spoken with several people Sunday who say the statues should stay, but that "none wanted to speak on camera."
Once the enemies of our heritage reach 1,500 signatures on their petition, they will turn it over to the THC. There's is also a public meeting on the removal of the monuments Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Bruce Elementary School.