Southern pride rallies ‘round flag

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Two days before last Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff, the flag issue resurfaced when Rep. Jim DeMint, who won decisively, declared “it should stay right where it is and I don’t think the state legislature or governor should spend any more time on it.”

Mr. Beasley accused his opponent of “trying to bring back the most divisive issue this state has ever had.”

In Greenwood, S.C., local radio talk-show host Terry Rust says the flag issue is still “big” with listeners, as he discovered after mentioning Mr. Beasley during his WLMA afternoon program one recent afternoon.

“I started getting calls — I had three callers in a row say [if Mr. Beasley gets the Republican nomination] they would go to the polls, they’d vote for President Bush, but they wouldn’t vote for David Beasley,” Mr. Rust recalls. “It’s not the flag, per se, but it’s that he lied. … He was the Republican Bill Clinton.”

A recent e-mail sent to Confederate heritage groups in South Carolina included a 2003 photo showing Mr. Beasley with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

“Who can you trust? Definitely not David Beasley,” the e-mail warned, declaring that the Republican had gone to Boston “to hobnob with Teddy Kennedy.”

“He accepted a Profile in Courage Award on the sole accomplishment of removing the flag from the dome.”

In the Old Dominion

As the annual meeting of SCV’s Virginia division is called to order, members gathered at a Best Western motel in South Hill, Va., to pay homage to three flags, saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag and reciting salutes to the Confederate flag and the Virginia state flag.

“I salute the flag of Virginia, with reverence and patriotic devotion to the ‘Mother of States and Statesmen’ which it represents,” the state salute proclaims, “the ‘Old Dominion,’ where liberty and independence were born.”

The salute is a sore point with many Virginia SCV members, who complain that “political correctness” keeps schools from teaching it to schoolchildren. Adopted by the state in 1954, it was written by Cassye Gravely of Martinsville, a leading member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

In 2002, when the state legislature voted to begin each day’s session with the salute to the state flag, black lawmakers announced they would refuse to recite it.

“I don’t want to be part of the Old Dominion. I want to be part of the New Dominion,” Delegate Dwight Clinton Jones, Richmond Democrat, said at the time. Another Richmond Democrat, Delegate Viola O. Baskerville, complained that the salute “was penned at a time when our state was most divisive.”

Divisive or not, Brag Bowling, past commander of the Virginia SCV, says Confederate heritage issues played a role in the state’s gubernatorial election in 2001.

Previous governors annually had proclaimed April as Confederate History Month, but Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, came under threat of a NAACP boycott in 2001. Mr. Gilmore instead issued a neutral proclamation, “in remembrance of the sacrifices and honor of all Virginians who served in the Civil War.”

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