Group to fly rebel flag over Interstate 10

80-foot pole will stand on private property
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Staff Reporter

The local Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to install a 12-foot-by-18-foot Confederate Battle Flag on an 80-foot pole built close to the eastbound side of Interstate 10 in south Mobile County.

Ben George, SCV commander of the Lee-Moses-Dixon Vindicator Camp in Saraland, said that the flag installation — which includes two light poles with 2,000-watt halogen lamps — cost between $15,000 and $20,000, which was raised largely through contributions.

George said the flag will be on private property, but he would not say who owned the property.

The project has been in development for more than a year, said George, whose organization is scheduled to dedicate the flag at 1 p.m. today to mark the 201st birthday of Robert E. Lee.

Confederate history, George said, is "part of the gumbo that refers to the diversity of Mobile. This is one part of that diversity that’s not getting the proper respect."

He said Confederate history is part of what draws tourists to Mobile.

He noted that there are huge Rebel flags visible to major highways in other locales in the South, such as the flag north of Montgomery, in Prattville.

"They’re going up in frustration," he explained, "with some of the things happening with heritage."

Clarence Mohr, professor of history at the University of South Alabama and author of books and academic papers on Southern history, including the Civil War, said he believes that the flag will repel and polarize rather than attract.

"It’s time that Alabamians realize we live in a global community," Mohr said. "If we are to be full participants in a society in which everything is interconnected, we need to step away from symbols that invoke a narrow and backward-looking view of the Southern past.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming majority of Alabamians, black and white, understand that the Civil War is over, and the time has come to move on.

"If we want to attract businesses like ThyssenKrupp and other businesses, if we want the port of Mobile to realize its full potential, we want to show the positive, not negatives of our history.

"A giant Confederate battle flag will do little to enhance the state’s image in the eyes of tourists or investors."

Mike Dean, Mobile County commissioner for District 3, which includes the Confederate flag site, said, "I think people feel different ways about that flag. This is America, and everyone’s got a view they want to represent. It’s on private property."

Did Dean feel that the flag would be bad for local business or generate negative responses?

"It will have no impact," he said. "It’s a matter of how people want to look at it. People have the right to feel either way on this issue.

"They’re doing something," he said of the SCV group, "to remember heritage."

The county’s only black commissioner, Merceria Ludgood, who represents District 1, said of the SCV’s flag project: "It’s certainly their right to do it," but "they’re out-of-step in where people are in this issue.

"My district is very diverse, some parts rural. People are looking for the things that we have in common and embracing those things, rather than (those that) divide us.

"I think it takes us backward." In response to the commonly used maxim about Confederate history, "heritage, not hate," Mohr said, "It’s impossible at this point to disentangle the Confederate flag from the many negative causes it’s been associated with since the Civil War, especially states’ rights, resistance to the civil rights movement, and frequent displays of the Confederate flag at neo-Nazi rallies and Klan rallies.

"It appears consistently in these settings, and there’s no use pretending it doesn’t."

© 2008 Press-Register

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