An Editorial for Charlotte, North Carolina
[Edited August 28, 2007]
June 8, 2006
"I do unabashedly advocate that we [the Sons of Confederate Veterans] become a modern, 21st century Christian war machine capable of uniting the Confederate community and leading it to ultimate victory." Kirk D. Lyons, December 20, 2005. (Source: See email to "Mike" dated December 20, 2005, attached).
Why do Charlotteans need to be concerned about the ravings of a neo-secessionist attorney who lives in the mountains of North Carolina? Here is why: Kirk Lyons is the national philosophical leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans with its 30,000 members. His law firm in Black Mountain, N.C. is the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) (www.slrc-csa.org/). The Southern Legal Resource Center, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) (www.scv.org/) and a third organization, the League of the South (LoS) (www.dixienet.org/), have assembled a core-group of leaders in the Charlotte Mecklenburg area. These men are part of a multi-state plan to unite the bitterly divided factions of what Lyons called the "Confederate community." A Charlotte attorney, Jim Hickmon, has recently become part of this effort. The Southern Legal Resource Center’s website announced Hickmon’s position in the firm on April 17:
"James B. Hickmon, a Charlotte-based attorney and longtime friend of the SLRC, has been named to the Board of Directors. He’s also licensed to practice in both North Carolina and Virginia and will be of great help in covering matters in those states for us. He is also a member of the Major Egbert Ross Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans." The announcement also stated that Hickmon is "absolutely committed to the work and principles of the SLRC." (Source: See attached SLRC eUPDATE, April 17, 2006)
What exactly are the "work and principles" of the Southern Legal Resource Center, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the League of the South? The answer comes from another of Kirk Lyons’ law partners; Larry Salley. Mr. Salley is a member of the SCV and the League of the South in South Carolina (www.sclos.org/). In September 2003, Salley boasted about the League’s progress in that state and revealed his vision for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This is what he wrote:
"Within the Midlands of SC, I have over 30 Law Enforcement officers who are LoS members. We have also infiltrated USC [University of South Carolina], the Citadel, and Clemson with our professors. I recently spoke at the Sumpter SCV Camp. I have a radio show (Gun Talk Radio) and we are encouraging other "Southern Nationalist" radio shows, like Radio Free Dixie. We have legislators in the Senate and the House. We have members who have been elected to Constitutional offices within South Carolina. We are the mainstream. The SCV is not a "history club". We are involved in a cultural war for our survival as a people. We are seeking.... Independence." (Source: See attached email dated September 7, 2003 to email@example.com from Larry Salley) Given Mr. Hickmon’s recent affiliation with Mr. Salley and Mr. Lyons, it is not unreasonable to assume that he shares these views.
Despite a carefully crafted public image as a liberal, world class city, Charlotte has its own homegrown neo-secession movement. Hickmon’s position with the SLRC confirms his alliance with two local Sons of Confederate Veterans extremists; Terry Crayton of Concord and Mike Tuggle of Charlotte. Crayton is a leading member in one of the largest and most radical SCV camps in the nation; Charlotte’s Major Egbert Ross SCV Camp (www.majross.org/). Crayton also holds two offices in the national SCV; chairman of the Budget/Finance Committee and Assistant Adjutant.
Mike Tuggle is one of Crayton’s closest allies in the Ross Camp. Tuggle is the Heritage Officer of the North Carolina SCV, but more ominously, he is the North Carolina chairman for the League of the South (www.tarheells.com/). The League has chapters in sixteen states and claims 9,000 members.
The League of the South’s national website describes the group as "a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic...." The website continues, "The American South... has the population and the economy to form one of the most powerful nations on earth. A Southern nation composed of only the eleven States of the former Confederate States of America, (i.e. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), would have 74 million people, the thirteenth most populous in the world."
Crayton, Tuggle and these organizations are not new to the Charlotte area. During the past several years, Charlotte Mecklenburg government, police, and media have repeatedly declined opportunities to inform themselves and the public about the presence of neo-secessionism in our area. Additionally, local government could have enlisted the aid of the moderate Confederate history/heritage community. Instead, Charlotte Mecklenburg leaders have mismanaged and misreported this situation at almost every turn. They have betrayed the moderate history/heritage community and have likely driven some moderates into the arms of SCV/LoS extremism. Local, legitimate Confederate history and heritage groups have been painted with the same brush of radicalism and treated with the same disdain as have the neo-secessionists.
In 2004, Charlotte Observer columnist Mary Curtis gave a fairly accurate, though incomplete, report on radical attitudes that had taken hold in the SCV. However, (later, claiming ignorance) she failed to mention that hundreds (now thousands) of Sons of Confederate Veterans members were leaving the SCV and forming new history/heritage groups or trying to fight the radical takeover of the SCV from inside the organization.
Ms. Curtis’s article ignored the much larger part of the "Confederate community" that wants nothing to do with the League of the South, Kirk Lyons’ Southern Legal Resource Center or with their co-conspirators who now control the SCV. Among these moderates are the United Daughters of the Confederacy (www.hqudc.org/), the Military Order of the Stars and Bars (www.mosbihq.org/), Civil War reenactors (www.cwreenactors.com/), North Carolina Robert E. Lee societies and other new groups that are springing up all over the South.
These groups are composed of patriotic Americans who want only to commemorate the historically accurate story of the Confederate soldier. They are vehemently opposed to the use of Confederate flags and symbols for any contemporary social or political agenda, much less using them as recruiting gimmicks for neo-secessionists and racists. The most vocal of these moderate groups at the time of Ms. Curtis’s article was Save the SCV (www.savethescv.org/). Save the SCV was founded in North Carolina, based in Charlotte, and went public in 2002; long before Ms. Curtis’s first article.
In an effort to inform the public that not all Confederate history/heritage supporters were neo-secessionists or racists, a co-founder of Save the SCV contacted Ms. Curtis at the Observer. He spent several hours with her describing the situation both locally and nationally. He introduced her to several local groups of moderate Confederate historians and reenactors. The result was Ms. Curtis’s award winning follow-up article that barely mentioned the SCV’s internal struggle and went on to tarnish the image of the moderates. Neo-secessionists were thrilled. They had predicted a betrayal of the moderates by the Charlotte Observer.
Next, Charlotte City Council apparently self-generated a controversy concerning the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s flag pole in Elmwood Cemetery. City government held a workshop, put up a website and gathered community input for several weeks. The public’s consensus, by a ten-to-one ratio, was to leave the Confederate flag alone or to merely alter its display method. No matter how the public felt, a majority of Charlotte City Council members wanted the Elmwood Confederate flag to disappear. Council members, in an act of political cowardice, passed the issue to the city manager who ordered the Confederate flag pole to be dug up and cut into pieces. The neo-secessionists, who had warned moderates against collusion between city government and the media, were handed another "I told you so" victory when local media remained silent about city government’s duplicitous and heavy handed tactics.
More recently, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation officials began holding public meetings to determine a new policy for military monuments in local parks. Historians and neo-secessionists alike could read between the lines when a senior park planner said, "We want to be sure the memorial is appropriate to the site." (Source: "Mecklenburg works on rules for park monuments," Charlotte Observer website. Posted: April 17, 2006) No matter how much Confederate heritage moderates and neo-secessionists despise each other, they all agree that the Confederate monuments in Charlotte Mecklenburg are doomed.
The end result of this situation is that extremists in our community have been given encouragement while patriotic historians have been undercut. In seizing this opportunity, the extremists have made Charlotte Mecklenburg and western North Carolina ground zero for neo-secessionism in the South.
In the not too distant future, it is likely that local governmental arrogance and media complicity will again combine to further strengthen the neo-secessionists in our midst. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Southern Legal Resource Center and the League of the South have their operatives in place. They are ready to take advantage of the right situation. Sooner or later, a crisis will come to Charlotte. A student will wear a Confederate flag t-shirt to school or another Confederate heritage symbol will be removed from a local park or cemetery. Before that crisis is upon us, Charlotte’s leaders need to stop playing into the hands of extremists.