- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

RICHMOND Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III has told The Washington Times he will defy a state NAACP deadline of Labor Day for deciding whether to make his annual Confederacy History Month proclamation.

Mr. Gilmore said he will decide on the wording this fall after completing his "listening tour" of communities across the state to gather input on the proclamation, which he has issued each April for the last three years.

Virginia's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has threatened to call for an economic boycott of the state if Mr. Gilmore issues any proclamation recognizing Confederate history next year.

However, it is unlikely that any boycott would begin immediately after Labor Day. Virginia NAACP Director Salim Khalfani said the group will meet at the end of September and could then pass a resolution asking the national office to approve an economic boycott.

Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, said he was working with the civil rights group, but added he would not be rushed in his decision.

"We're continuing to meet with the NAACP on a regular basis, listening to their ideas and their concerns. But I've also made it clear that I have a lot of listening to do, and I think it's going to be through the fall, and I'm not done yet," Mr. Gilmore said. "And I think there are a lot more people that I want to talk to, and I would imagine I'll be doing it through the fall."

But Mr. Khalfani said he thinks the governor has had enough time to speak with Virginians about the proclamation.

"He said that in May, and here we are now, headed into September. I think he's [had] quite enough opportunity to talk to folks," Mr. Khalfani said.

Mr. Khalfani said yesterday he's expecting Mr. Gilmore to have a final answer when the NAACP and the governor hold their quarterly meeting sometime in September.

The governor is scheduled to meet this morning with Virginia members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a Confederate history group, to hear their plea for the same proclamation he has issued each April over the last three years.

SCV officials will tell the governor not to give in to the NAACP's threats, said Brag Bowling, a Richmond-area official with the Sons and one of the members who will meet with Mr. Gilmore.

"Our basic message is that we support what Governor Gilmore has done. While the proclamations haven't been exactly what we wanted, they honor Confederate history and we support Governor Gilmore, and we want him to hold the course," he said.

Mr. Gilmore's proclamations have recognized the sacrifices of the men who died in defense of the South, but also included a line declaring slavery "is abhorred and condemned by Virginians, and was ended by this war." Neither the NAACP nor the SCV has been satisfied with them.

Mr. Bowling said his group will bring eight to 10 persons to meet the governor, including members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and some black residents who support the proclamation.

For now, it looks as though Mr. Gilmore will issue some proclamation in April.

"I'm sure something will be issued, but we're leaving it wide open at this point as to the nature of any type of proclamation," he said.

Mr. Gilmore said his staff has been in discussion with "community organizations" about the proclamation and said the reaction has been mixed.

Mr. Khalfani left open the possibility of a Civil War history proclamation, similar to the one he said Gov. L. Douglas Wilder issued during his term.

"Civil War history is different from Confederate history. Civil War history is fine with us," Mr. Khalfani said yesterday.

But Mr. Bowling called that "totally unacceptable to the Sons of Confederate Veterans." Any proclamation must recognize Confederate soldiers, he said.

Economic boycotts have become a powerful tool for the NAACP in its fight against official recognition of Confederate history and its symbols.

The group ultimately succeeded in pressuring South Carolina state lawmakers to remove the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse in May after a months-long boycott.

It has since made similar appeals to the public to bypass other states and cities that incorporate Confederate symbols in their official flags, such as Georgia and Mississippi.

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