- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

ATLANTA

It's not much of a headquarters from which to lead a crusade, this low-slung, nondescript office near the Long John Silvers in Carrollton, Ga. At first glance, Allen M. Trapp Jr. is an unlikely commander of thousands of Confederate-loving Georgians pledged to fight for their heritage, their pride, their flag.

But the lawyer with thinning black hair and an innocence of expression shrewdly plots the most concerted battle ever to keep intact Georgia's flag with its Confederate-honoring insignia. Since June, membership in Mr. Trapp's Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans has increased by 350 to a record 3,800 persons, he says. No other state counts as many SCV members.

As commander of all Georgia troops, Mr. Trapp oversees 99 SCV camps, including four in Cobb County. He runs Georgia's Heritage Defense Fund. He'll help direct where the "low- to mid-six figure" budget pledged to fight the flag's removal will be spent.

"This is a line in the sand," says Mr. Trapp, with prints of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Patrick R. Cleburne adorning his office walls. "For the past 15 years, anything Southern, anything Confederate has been subject to vicious attack… . Certainly we expect something this next year and we're prepared."

So, too, is State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, Atlanta Democrat, and the legions of flag-removal proponents.

"When people dig their feet into the sand, and talk of no compromise, that usually leads to an ugly confrontation," says Mr. Brooks, co-chairman of the Coalition to Change the Georgia Flag. "We don't want that. We need to find some middle ground."

Mr. Brooks began the process to file legislation recently to relegate the state flag to the "museums and archives," and replace it with the flag that flew prior to 1956 and carried no Confederate commemoration. If the General Assembly refuses to remove the flag, Mr. Brooks and other political and civil rights leaders vow to push an economic boycott of Georgia.

Such bellicosity incites the SCV, Heritage Preservation Association and other state and national groups fighting to maintain totems of the past. They've used the uproar over Georgia's flag, as well as the fallout from South Carolina's struggle to remove the Confederate flag from its Statehouse dome, to rally the troops. Mississippi's current flag flap also helps bolster Georgia's membership rolls and budgets.

The SCV and other groups have informative Web sites that are a prime recruitment source for new members. They use mass mailings and on-line petitions to reach the Confederate faithful. Their politically active affiliates get the attention of elected officials.

"We're not kidding around," Mr. Trapp says.

Traditionally, the SCV is known for its genealogical and historical efforts. SCV members also march in Civil War regalia during holiday parades, re-enact battles and ensure Confederate graves are properly distinguished. While those activities continue, the SCV fully has embraced the 21st century.

Georgia's SCV Web site (www.georgiascv.com) is replete with links, logos, chat rooms and bulletin boards that proclaim pride in "our Southern heritage, including our state flag, and call upon the General Assembly to vote down any bill which would change our state flag." Mr. Trapp says keep-the-flag petitions with more than 100,000 Georgians' signatures will be presented to Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes and legislators next month.

The Web site also lists 44 SCV "camps" across Georgia that can be contacted instantly. It boasts the placement of ads in more than 100 newspapers and "infomercials" on 109 radio stations across the state. The site also offers brochures detailing the SCV's position on the state flag.

Mr. Trapp credits the Web site, with its on-line recruitment form, for boosting SCV enrollment in Georgia. He says membership has more than doubled the last 10 years and attributes the recent surge to attacks on the flags in South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

Maitland Westbrook agrees.

"All Southern states are showing significant increases," says Mr. Westbrook, executive director of the international headquarters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans based in Columbia, Tenn. "Any attack on Southern heritage, the War Between the States, the South in general, the inquiries just shoot up and membership shoots up, which is OK with me."

Mr. Westbrook counts a record 29,200 SCV members in the United States and overseas up 3,500 since the beginning of August. There are also more camps than ever before, he adds.

Mr. Trapp says the SCV, with its $35 in annual camp, division and national membership dues, will be able to shoulder some of the flag-fighting expenses. Yet, outside money will be critical.

"Including help from out of state," he explains, "we've already got pledged and ready to roll [an amount] in the low- to mid-six figures."

With increasing public pressure to change the flag, the SCV and other groups might well need all the money they can raise. A recent poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV shows less than half of Georgia voters want to keep the Confederate emblem on the state flag.

A slew of business leaders have come forward recently to say the flag should be furled and replaced with the pre-1956 version. The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, the local representative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), just passed a resolution saying the flag "has served to pull the community apart" and should be retired.

"I am hopefully optimistic," Mr. Brooks says. "There's a possibility the legislature will do the right thing."

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