•N.C. and the neo-Confederates
I mentioned during our discussion of Eric Robert Rudolph that the area of North Carolina where he was captured has become a redoubt for Right Wing extremists. It has now been chosen as the site for a reunion of neo-Confederates.
ASHEVILLE, NC - The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Military Order of the Stars and Bars will hold their 2003 National Reunion nestled high in the clouds near the mighty and majestic Smoky Mountains of Asheville, NC July 30-Aug. 2.
The event, which is hosted by Zebulon Vance Camp 15, will be headquartered at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.
Already the stomping grounds of League of the South and SCV leader Kirk Lyons and his crew of bigots, Asheville seems to be becoming even more the place for persons who share such beliefs.
•UDC assault on Vanderbilt continues
A neo-Confederate group is continuing its efforts to stop Vanderbilt University from changing the name of a campus building.
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy said they decided last weekend at their convention in Jackson, Tenn., to use any legal means necessary to stop the name change of Confederate Memorial Hall.
In a meeting last week with members of the UDC, top Vanderbilt administrators said they made it clear that the name will change.
"Chancellor (E. Gordon) Gee was clear at the meeting that we've done what we've done," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice chancellor for public affairs. "He offered them the opportunity to make some other suggestions that we would consider."
The UDC's lawyer, Bob Notestine, said there will be no compromise.
The UDC's argument is that since the organization donated some of the funds to have the hall, built in 1935, constructed, it is entitled to control the name of the building. In the interim, much has changed, including the name of the college and an end to its historic policy of racial segregation.
When it was built, Confederate Memorial Hall's name was agreed to by both parties, and this agreement was formalized by the signing of contracts by legal and official representatives of George Peabody College and the UDC, according to the resolution passed last week.
I don't find the Daughters' argument at all convincing. The gift of $50,000 68 years ago was not premised on control of the name of the building as consideration. Furthermore, even when donors have explicitly stated they are giving to an institution because of its racially segregated nature, courts have held those provisions in contracts to be void because they violate public policy. Though the argument is about the maintenance of symbolic support for segregation here, I believe the same result would be reached.
The remaining question is why the Daughters of the Confederacy want to retain Confederate Memorial Hall as the name of a building on a modern, integrated campus.
"They have decided to take whatever steps are needed to preserve the name on Confederate Memorial Hall," Notestine said. "Their stance is that the name needs to remain on the building."
The UDC's lawyer offers no reason for the "need" for that particular name on the building. The only one I can think of is that such symbolism is a kind of last gasp reaction of neo-Confederates. If they had their way, segregation would still be in effect. Unable to achieve that goal, or even to encroach on integration to the extent they would like, they fight to the finish over issues such as the Confederate flag as a state emblem and the word Confederate on a quasi-public building because that is the closest they can get to having things their way. That reason seems like a 'want,' not a 'need' to me.
•Lester Maddox: Good riddance
Jim Tharpe of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written a very sympathetic account of the funeral of former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, who died last week at 87. Maddox, an ardent segregationist, is praised for his common touch.
[Sen. Zell] Miller said Maddox's invention of "Little People's Day," a kind of people's court where a citizen could meet face to face with the governor, forever changed Georgia government. That sentiment was echoed Friday by former President Jimmy Carter, who paid his respects to Maddox as he lay in state in the rotunda of the state Capitol.
. . . It's difficult to forget a man who rides a bicycle backwards, whistles birdcalls, refers to newspapers as 'fishwrappers' and says 'Phooey' to those with whom he disagrees," Miller said.
I suppose some of the praise can be explained by the dictum that people should not speak ill of the dead. But, it also brings up a failing I must take issue with -- the tendency of white folks to be very forgiving of each other no matter what harm has been caused by the conduct they are all but dismissing. Lester Maddox earned his image in history by an act that is not mentioned until the middle of Tharpe's piece, and then sympathetically.
Maddox was a high school dropout born into poverty. His tenacity and business acumen led him to open a successful fried chicken eatery called the Pickrick Restaurant near Georgia Tech.
It was there in 1964 where he gained national notoriety by chasing away a group of would-be black diners. Maddox brandished a pistol, and supporters wielded pickax handles. He instantly became a symbol of resistance to racial integration that was being forced on a reluctant region by the federal courts [sic].
It was a freeze-frame Maddox never lived down.
It was Maddox's support for segregation that had the most impact on people during his careers as both a businessman and as a politician, not whether he was kind to African-Americans who knew their place. During his terms as governor, from 1967 to 1971, he was a supporter of massive resistance to integration, despite the much ballyhooed hiring of some black employees.
Maddox was a longterm member of the SCV. His place among neo-Confederates was not overlooked during his funeral.
"When I die, hallelujah bye and bye, I'll fly away," Maddox's voice could be heard singing as his flag-draped casket rested at the front of the cavernous sanctuary surrounded by red, white and blue flowers. One wreath, from the John B. Gordon chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, featured a Rebel battle flag dominating the center of the arrangement.
Jimmy Carter and Zell Miller may be forgiving, but the gun-wielding member of the SCV is the image of Maddox I will carry to my grave.