Confederate group agrees to remove sign
By Kevin Ellis
Published: Friday, January 23, 2015
A local group that celebrates the South’s Confederate past will take down a prominent sign that had greeted those traveling into North Carolina on U.S. 321 for the past several years.
Sons of Confederate Veterans had placed the sign, which includes the Confederate flag, along U.S. 321 North believing that it was on private property, said Bill Starnes, commander of the Maj. Charles Q. Petty Camp, the Gastonia-based group that erected the sign.
However, the Department of Transportation looked at the location of the sign this week and determined that the sign was on public land and within the highway’s right of way.
Transportation officials talked with leaders in the Sons of Confederate Veterans group who agreed to take the sign down, said Jordan-Ashley Walker, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, on Friday.
Starnes said his group does not want to violate any state policies.
Both transportation officials and leaders of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group said the sign has not drawn any criticism that they could readily recall.
Transportation officials looked at the sign’s location based on an inquiry from The Gazette about whether the sign was in the highway’s right of way.
The Gazette had asked about the sign for a news story after a person who was offended by the sign sent the paper a photograph of it.
The sign reads “Welcome to North Carolina” and includes a phone number asking passers-by to “join now.” It’s most prominent feature though is the Confederate flag.
Starnes agrees many people today see the Confederate flag as controversial, but he blames that on what he calls “Yankee lies” about the Civil War being solely about slavery.
“I take pride in the fact that my ancestors fought a tyrannical government for the rights of self-determination and states’ rights,” Starnes said.
Starnes said his group celebrates Confederate heritage and has no tolerance for racism.
A few years back, after a preservation project at Olney Presbyterian Church cemetery, the Sons of Confederate veterans also erected a sign to dedicate an area that contained the unmarked graves of about 80 former slaves.
“That doesn’t sound racist at all, does it?” Starnes said of that effort.
The Maj. Charles Q. Petty Camp, one of three Sons of Confederate Veterans groups based in Gaston County, has about 75 members.
Taking down the sign won’t hurt recruitment, Starnes said.
Most of those who join up with the Sons of Confederate Veterans do so after a community program or cemetery clean-up project, Starnes said.
The group probably will try to put the sign up elsewhere, he said.
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