Sunday, May 17, 2009
A DAY TO REMEMBER
Saturday, April 25, 2009 was one of those typical Florida days so familiar to central Florida residents who expect, and usually receive, sunshine and a clear sky most every day. For those 2000 Southerners, though, who had gathered near the intersection of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4 east of Tampa, it was truly going to be a day to remember as the world’s largest flying Confederate Battle Flag was raised into the late afternoon sky as the finale to a daylong celebration of dedication for the Confederate Memorial Park which that great flag so magnificently graces.
The dedication of this wonderful park was the culmination of more than four years of planning, site acquisition, permit pulling, fundraising and construction. It took the efforts of hundreds of dedicated Southerners to make this dream a reality.
The Tampa park is the third site in the "Flags Across Florida" project of the Florida Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. The FAF project was originally conceived by the officers of the Capt. John T. Lesley Camp #1282 of Tampa who, after seeing the success of two camp projects of placing a flag and monument in a cemetery, proposed to the Florida Division that the effort be enlarged and expanded to a statewide project that would involve placing larger flagpoles, flags and monuments at sites along heavily-traveled highways in the state. The focus was upon promoting Southern and Confederate Heritage by emphasizing Florida’s role and contributions in the War for Southern Independence.
The first flag site was dedicated in 1999 with a monument and flag placed alongside US Highway 27 in Gadsden County just a few hundred feet south of the Georgia-Florida line. This was followed by a second dedication in 2002 of a site located on Interstate 75 about 10 miles north of Lake City. This site features four large monuments and a huge flag flying atop a 100-foot flagpole. Both sites are lighted and feature a Confederate Battle Flag, as will all FAF sites (occasionally a different flag may be flown for a specific event or specific reason).
These two previous projects set the stage for the largest effort yet – the Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa.
The Tampa park began when Marion Lambert, a member of the General Jubal Early Camp #556 in Tampa, recognized the potential of a rather small, irregularly-shaped parcel of land abutting I-75 near the intersection with I-4. This intersection has a traffic count approaching 300,000 vehicles a day – certainly the type location the Florida Division had in mind for Flags Across Florida sites.
Marion bought the property and began the long process involved in bringing one of these sites to completion. Likely, the most arduous part of the project was complying with all the regulations and ordinances of Hillsborough County. Marion, with able assistance from many members of the Early camp and the Florida Division (not to mention all the labor and equipment that was donated by non-SCV members who just wanted to help), hung tough and the result is the beautiful park that now crowns the site.
Dedication Day, which was one day before the official Confederate Memorial Day in the state, was almost as impressive as the park itself. (Note: I knew when I attended the last event committee meeting the Friday before "the day" that every "i" would be dotted and every "t" crossed as I listened to Ron Queen, the event coordinator, meticulously go over every detail of the next day to make sure it had been taken care of.)
As I mentioned earlier, about 2000 people (likely more, but I’m conservative in most everything) were there to celebrate the dedication and their heritage. As is usually the case at an event of this magnitude, there were speakers aplenty – and what a fine group of speakers they were. Among those who climbed to the podium to thrill the crowd were Chuck McMichael of Louisiana, Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; Kelly Barrow of Georgia, Commander of the Army of Tennessee, SCV; Florida Division Commander Doug Dawson of Pensacola; Rev. Herman White, North Carolina Division Commander; Dr. Marshall DeRosa, Florida Atlantic University constitutional scholar and professor; noted author ("The South was Right". etc.) Walter Donald Kennedy of Louisiana; and Pastor John Weaver of Fitzgerald, Georgia, twice past Chaplain-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who, as the keynote speaker, gave the crowd plenty of red meat for consideration.
All the events leading up to the raising of the flag were held in a three acre area just across Hwy 92 from the park. Hwy 92 fronts the park on the south and runs parallel to I-4 and perpendicular to I-75. The speakers platform (which also served as the venue for the musical entertainment), gigantic revival-style tent for seating and shade, food vendors, gift vendors, living history displays and numerous cannon with crews almost completely filled the three acres. The day of speeches, music, eating, shopping and socializing began around mid-morning with the much-anticipated flagraising scheduled for around four o’clock in the afternoon.
As the final speaker, Marion Lambert, began to conclude his remarks, the level of anticipation heightened considerably among the crowd. This excitement increased even more as the approximately three dozen color guard members assembled and hoisted the giant flag onto their shoulders for the journey across the road to the park. Several of the police officers on duty blocked Hwy 92 for the flag’s trip to the park and many in the crowd edged closer to the road to get a better view of the soon-to-occur flagraising.
At this point, God smiled benignly on the proceedings and what had been a hot, still day was suddenly blessed with a strong breeze which would assure that the flag, once raised, would fly proudly and beautifully in the blue Florida sky.
And fly it did! As the giant flag reached the top of the 139-foot pole and completely unfurled in the breeze, shouts and cheers rang out from one end of the assembled crowd to the other. What a sight and what an event!
Interestingly, despite the grandeur of the occasion, the park is not yet complete. Although the park boasts beautiful iron fencing, 400 ornamental plants, a wall with more than 14,000 bricks, a beautiful tree-shaded lawn and a large granite memorial marker at the base of the flagpole, still to be placed (when they are received from the stonecutter) are a number of tall granite stones upon which will be installed bronze historical plaques commemorating heroes and events of the War for Southern Independence.
These plaques are especially dear to me as I have had the honor and pleasure of writing the text for several of the plaques that have thus far been sponsored. There is space for about a dozen more plaques and we anticipate sponsors for these also. There were framed replicas of the sixteen already-sponsored plaques displayed on easels around the base of the flagpole.
The granite memorial marker at the base of the flagpole bears the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in color and the following inscription:
SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS
APRIL 25, 2009
TO THE SOLDIERS, SAILORS & MARINES
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA
WHO FOUGHT,BLED AND DIED IN DEFENSE OF THEIR HOMELAND
AGAINST RUTHLESS INVASION, AND WHO STROVE TO PROTECT
AMERICA’S BIRTHRIGHT OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY & FREEDOM
DATING FROM 1776
THIS SITE IS ALSO DEDICATED TO THE NINE MILLION PEOPLE OF THE
SOUTHERN STATES WHO, IN THEIR STRUGGLE FOR STATES RIGHTS &
INDEPENDENCE, SUFFERED AND SACRIFICED ALL
IT IS THE SINCERE DESIRE OF THE SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS
THAT NOT ONLY HOMAGE BE PAID TO OUR SOUTHERN ANCESTORS
BUT FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT
" THE QUEST FOR LIBERTY IS TIMELESS "
Of those in attendance, about 500 were in Confederate uniforms or period clothing. Of the former, perhaps the most interesting was a group of gentlemen referred to as "The Generals". These men had traveled all the way from Virginia and West Virginia and each bore an uncanny resemblance to a Confederate leader. It was quite a sight to see General Lee conferring with General Stuart as General Longstreet stood close by. These half dozen or so were quite impressive in their full uniforms. In fact, everyone in attendance in uniform or period clothing made for an impressive sight. Altogether it was simply a splendid show for a splendid occasion and I found it all to be both thrilling and pleasing.
I was also very pleased when I received in the mail the May 6 issue of my favorite newspaper, the TIMES EXAMINER, a weekly published in Greenville, South Carolina. The paper not only had articles and pictures of Confederate Memorial Day services in Greenville,SC and Columbia,SC but, also, pictures and an article about the Tampa park dedication. Even though I have never lived in that fair city, this is why I subscribe to a newspaper from there despite living in Tallahassee. Thank you, TIMES EXAMINER!
By the way, let me clear up a question that came up recently. The views and opinions expressed in all CONFEDERATE JOURNAL articles are mine and mine alone. Although I am a camp commander and division officer of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, my CJ articles are not written as an official representative of the SCV. The SCV does not pre-approve nor censor anything I write. Likewise, the fine people who own and publish the Wakulla Area Times grant me the privilege of expressing my own opinion in my articles as I have done for the past 3 and 1/2 years. I appreciate this. If anyone reading my articles disagrees with anything I write, your disagreement is with me and me alone. My contact information is always at the end of each article. ‘Nuff said.
On The Web: shnv.blogspot.com/2009/05/day-to-remember.html