- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Disgusted by what they see as the extinction of the all-male Southern military college, some graduates want to build one of their own, based on the way The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute used to be.

That is, they say, before those schools started admitting women, before they stopped saying mealtime prayers, and before the winds of political correctness swept aside many of the reminders of the Confederacy.

“Southern traditions that have been tarnished and almost lost will live again,” backers of the planned Southern Military Institute say on their Web site. “The concept of an officer and a Southern gentleman will be the standard, not the exception.”

The nonprofit group headed by Michael Guthrie of Madison, Ala., is planning to purchase a 450-acre farm just outside Shelbyville, a city of about 16,000, and hopes to open with a first class of about 30 cadets in the fall of 2004.

It will be the nation’s only private, all-male, four-year military college.

Backers say it will extol the virtues of military discipline and the legacy of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Confederate symbols, including the first national Confederate flag, are included in the school’s promotional materials.

Mr. Guthrie said blacks are welcome to attend.

“We have been villainized, especially Southern Christian heritage has been villainized as racist,” Mr. Guthrie said. “I think there are a lot of conservative blacks who would understand the issues that revolved around the Civil War. There will also be people who oppose us. The very reason we are having to start this school — we have become a minority in this country.”

Mr. Guthrie, an engineer for a defense contractor and a 1977 VMI graduate, is a former member of the League of the South, a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has identified as racist.

“Having a leader like that of a college is obviously of some concern to us,” said Heidi Beirich, a spokeswoman for the SPLC, which tracks hate groups. “This is very much in the vein of what these neo-Confederate organizations believe in. It is sexist. It is to a certain extent secessionist. To me, it sounds like the League of the South.”

The Southern Military Institute is trying to raise $500,000 to open the school and will then try to bring in an additional $1 million within 18 months, Mr. Guthrie said.

The organizers also appear to be close to acquiring the land.

The farm owner, Dr. Robert Canon, said he is optimistic the sale could be completed within the next month. His hilly, wooded property includes a bluff along the Duck River and a large farmhouse that could be converted into a lodge or classrooms.

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