2005-08-31
by Darren Dunlap
of The Daily Times Staff

H.K. Edgerton sat at the intersection holding the Confederate battle flag with one hand and waving at drivers with the other.

Edgerton, an Asheville, N.C., resident, seemed to enjoy the attention and support coming from people at the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and Lamar Alexander Parkway.

“You see all the folks here wavin’, white folks and black folks — we family,” said Edgerton, chairman of the board of advisors for the Southern Legal Resource Center.

Edgerton, who walked from Johnson City to Maryville in July, arrived Tuesday seeking support for the Rebel flag after a Maryville Board of Education policy passed this month banned flags from school events.

He doesn’t see the Rebel flag as a symbol of oppression, but as a part of the history of the region. He said people were supportive most of the day, with the exception of “two white Yankee men throwing their middle fingers at me.”

“I’m sitting right here with this flag, like my grandfather would have,” he said.

Edgerton started the day seated in front of New Providence Presbysterian Church, 703 West Broadway Avenue. He sat at edge of the busy road on a narrow strip of grass by the sidewalk.

Edgerton said he chose the spot because it was across from Maryville High School.

Steve Musick, an associate pastor at the church, wanted Edgerton to move and called Maryville police. Musick said he didn’t want the church associated with the controversy surrounding the flag.

Since the property Edgerton chose was public property, Maryville Police Officer Dan Debuty told Edgerton he would need a permit to demonstrate.

Edgerton said “one man does not a demonstration make.”

He got the permit but wasn’t allowed to stay in front of the church. Maryville police were concerned about Edgerton’s safety, as he was near West Broadway Avenue.

Musick wanted to know how much Edgerton was paid to demonstrate.

Edgerton, who drove to Maryville this time, said he wasn’t paid by the SLRC for his work.

“If I was on the payroll, it wouldn’t be anybody’s business,” Edgerton said. He is a former president of the Asheville chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.

Edgerton said he wanted to speak Maryville School System officials and challenged them to speak with him. But Edgerton made no attempt to call school officials Tuesday, according to Stephanie Thompson, Assistant Director of Maryville Schools.

Nor did he try to reach them when he was in Maryville July 1, where he stopped at the Blount County Courthouse for an afternoon press conference.

Edgerton planned only to be in Maryville Tuesday, but said he could be coming back.

“I might be back, I don’t know,” said Edgerton. “I’ve seen so much love in Maryville, I may move here.”

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