- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans predicted yesterday that scrapping the traditional "Confederate History Month" proclamation in Virginia for one honoring both Union and Confederate sides in the Civil War will hurt the state's Republicans.
Henry Kidd, Virginia Division commander of the SCV, said the new proclamation Gov. James S. Gilmore III issued Tuesday is "pandering" to minorities, and that Mr. Gilmore's position as head of the Republican National Committee (RNC) might have been a reason.
"I don't doubt that there were some top-level discussions going on with him being in that position," Mr. Kidd said. "I can't say for sure, I don't know the facts, but I sure as heck suspect so."
Both the old and new proclamations condemn slavery, but the old proclamation praised the sacrifice of Virginians in the Confederate defense of the state. Mr. Gilmore's new proclamation mutes such praise and includes similar praise for the Union soldiers who invaded Virginia.
The governor told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't consider the new proclamation "caving" to pressure, and his spokeswoman said the governor would have issued the proclamation with or without his position as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"Governor Gilmore thought long and hard before putting pen to paper on this proclamation, and its writing is a direct result of his speaking with Virginians from all parts of the commonwealth and from varied backgrounds and ethnicity," spokeswoman Lila White said.
The state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which hadn't commented Tuesday on the proclamation, yesterday released a statement accepting it as a good-faith effort.
"The Virginia state conference NAACP acknowledges Gov. Gilmore's break with the past on this issue," the statement read.
"This proclamation will cause Virginians to reflect upon an unpleasant era in history. Valuable lessons may be learned upon study and reflection of the Civil War. It is our belief that the issue of heritage has been addressed, as the full scope of the events are included."
But the Sons of Confederate Veterans, among the most vigorous defenders of the old proclamation, accuse Mr. Gilmore of "knuckling under" to pressure from the NAACP.
The group compares the move to the decision by the state's attorney general to challenge a federal court ruling that requires Virginia to issue custom license plates with the SCV logo, which includes the Confederate battle flag.
Attorney General Mark L. Earley, locked in battle with Lt. Gov. John H. Hager for the Republican nomination for governor, asked a federal appeals court to overturn that ruling.
The SCV has organized behind Mr. Hager, but it's not clear how influential the group's support will be.
One Republican voter told the Lynchburg News and Advance that he'd sooner vote for a Democrat than Mr. Earley because of the issue.
Mr. Kidd said that's not an uncommon sentiment.
"I don't doubt that there are going to be thousands of folks in the state here who think this is a hot issue, and they are going to decide who is going to be governor based solely on these issues," he said.
The SCV claims about 3,000 members in Virginia, but also points to almost 60,000 signatures the group collected for a petition supporting Confederate History Month.
A spokesman for Mr. Earley said appealing the ruling on the license plates wasn't meant as an affront to the group, but rather an effort to defend the power of the General Assembly to make decisions about what goes on license plates.
"Like all Virginians, individuals committed to promoting our heritage are also concerned about job creation, quality education, taxes and quality-of-life issues," said Quintin Kendall, an Earley campaign strategist.
"We are optimistic that these folks will respond positively to Mark Earley and the Republican Party when we make the case that we are better prepared and have a stronger record on advancing these important issues."
Mark R. Warner, the Democrat running unopposed for the gubernatorial nomination, says he does not support the Confederate History Month proclamation.

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