By Andy Prutsok
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I mentioned here yesterday the Tom Smith Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans was having a meeting last night at which they would likely be discussing participation in the Civil War Weekend events sponsored by the city that are taking place Saturday and Sunday.
Boy, did they ever have a meeting.
Rather than me spinning this thing for you, I’ll just let you hear it straight from them.
The following press release was sent to me about 10:30 last night by Keith Morris, the Tom Smith Camp Adjutant:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE n Monday, March 27, 2006
Press Statement of the
Tom Smith Camp #1702
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Contact: F. Lee Hart, III n Past Commander
Tonight, during the regular monthly meeting of the Tom Smith Camp #1702, Sons of Confederate Veterans, an overwhelming decision was made to withdraw the organization’s sponsorship and participation in the upcoming Suffolk Civil War Weekend.
This decision was made with much regret, and was not made lightly.
For the past eleven years, since its inception, the Tom Smith Camp has, through its community efforts, attempted to cultivate a bond with the City of Suffolk, worthy of the heritage of those valiant soldiers who defended Nansemond County and Suffolk, and who also rebuilt this city after its destructive occupation during the War Between the States. In so doing, the Tom Smith Camp has not only participated in, but also provided direct assistance to the benefit of the City of Suffolk and its citizens in various efforts to preserve and develop the rich historical resources of this community. Specifically, for the last three years, the Tom Smith Camp has faithfully supported the Civil War Weekend as a way to give back to the local community by promoting historical education, as well as to support the valuable work of the City of Suffolk’s Department of Tourism.
While the efforts of the Tom Smith Camp were initially received with some skepticism from those not familiar with our organization, there has been overwhelming support since that time from the local citizenry, including educators and prominent civic and political leaders. In more recent years, this has been substantiated by the Mayoral proclamations honoring April as Confederate History Month in Suffolk, which included the support of the courageous and far-sighted past-Mayor, Curtis R. Milteer, who encouraged our community to work together and learn from each other’s history and heritage.
Unfortunately, the warm relationship that had developed between the Tom Smith Camp and the City of Suffolk was unfairly severed by the actions of Mayor Bobby Ralph. Ralph, who had until recently assured the Tom Smith Camp of his support of April as Confederate History and Heritage Month, went back on his word, finding the issue too “divisive.” The Mayor’s decision also came on the heels of another volley delivered by the City, which prohibited the Tom Smith Camp from using the flag pole located behind the Hilton Garden-Inn at Constant’s Wharf, when the Camp welcomes the Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, state convention in late April.
To the membership of the Tom Smith Camp, the treatment it has received most recently from the City of Suffolk and Mayor Bobby Ralph has been hurtful and insulting. Though the Camp has attempted over the years to rise above such conduct by the City, the latest abuse has shown an insincerity and disrespect that has never before existed, and has become a sign of the City’s blatant attitude toward those citizens whose only fault is respect for their heritage. At this point, it is clear that the Mayor believes that either we are not worthy of the respect offered to other civic organizations and citizens, or that the Tom Smith Camp and our purpose are a politically-disadvantageous impediment to his re-election.
Given the current atmosphere, the officers and membership of the Tom Smith Camp believe that the time has come that we not further embarrass the City of Suffolk or Mayor Ralph with our involvement or support. Sadly, this has placed the Tom Smith Camp in such a precarious position that the membership no longer feels welcome or comfortable taking part in a community event like this year’s Suffolk Civil War Weekend. The recent actions of the Mayor make it apparent that while the City wishes to attract tourism into the local area, it is only for the purpose of filling its own coffers, and not out of a genuine respect for Suffolk’s history. Mayor Ralph stated last year that it would be “inconsistent” to support Civil War Weekend and not support April Confederate History and Heritage Month. We agree! While the Tom Smith Camp will work as hard as ever to preserve and protect Suffolk’s rich Confederate history, and see to it that such a proud heritage is passed on to future generations, we can not continue to support the City of Suffolk while it reaches out with one hand of friendship, only to stab us in the back with the other.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans, and the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers without regard to race or religion. Organized at Richmond, Virginia, in 1896, the SCV continues to serve as a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved. The Tom Smith Camp, SCV, is the heir of the Tom Smith Camp (United Confederate Veterans) which existed in this area from 1895 until the death of the last surviving Confederate veteran in 1933. Locally, the Tom Smith Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has been an active part of the Suffolk community in seeing that the honor and legacy of those men who served Suffolk and the Southland are remembered.
Copyright © 2006 Suffolk News-Herald