N. Carolina black defends Confederate flag display before Lawrence board 1/15/02
By Clyde L. Stancil
DAILY Staff Writer

TOWN CREEK — H.K. Edgerton is proud of the roles his ancestors played as soldiers, nurses, cooks and the like in the Confederate army, and he is proud of his life membership in the NAACP.

Edgerton, a black man from Asheville, N.C., expressed his pride passionately Monday night to the Lawrence County Board of Education, speaking in support of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group asked Edgerton to help persuade the board to allow students to wear clothing that bears the Confederate Battle Flag, also referred to as the rebel flag.

Edgerton said he is immediate past president of the Asheville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and chairman of advisers for the Southern Legal Resource Center Inc. The group supports students’ rights to wear the rebel flag at school.

SLRC attorney Kirk Lyons is representing the families of some of the 18 students suspended from two Lawrence County schools last fall for defying the schools’ ban on displaying rebel flags on clothing. No lawsuits have been filed, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans are trying to persuade school board members to soften their stance.

"I take denial of rights to any group very personally, as a man who has committed his life to fighting to end ignorance, intolerance and bigotry," Edgerton said to the board and about 100 people at Hazlewood Elementary School. "I also take it personally because I am a Confederate southern American. When you take rights away from my fellow Confederate Americans, you also take rights from all those students that look like me; who not only share the same race with me, but the same ancestry, if your schools would only teach them so."

Edgerton said discrimination against any child is wrong, and rhetorically asked the board why is it all right to display the cross of Malcom X in school, but not OK to display the Christian cross of St. Andrew.

Some of the students suspended from Lawrence County High School wore shirts that bore a similar message. The shirts said, "Jesus and the Confederate Flag. Banned from our schools, but forever in our hearts. Fight for freedom."

In addition to their request to allow the display of the rebel flag, the SCV wants to introduce an abbreviated Confederate curriculum into Lawrence Schools.

It would include student members of the Moulton SCV camp participating in an exhibit of letters, photographs and maps underscoring the Civil War in Lawrence County.

Members would donate library books on Confederate history, civil and constitutional rights and Native American topics.

A re-enactment camp and music programs would introduce music from the 1840s to the 1860s. Also, members would present programs on the history of and controversy about the Confederate flag.

Edgerton would conduct a seminar titled "Teaching Y’all Tolerance," based on a program the U.S. Army uses. Students would participate in groups of 10 to 20 with an adult team leader. The idea is to foster self-respect and respect for belief values of others.

After Edgerton spoke, Superintendent Dexter Rutherford said he has considered some of the SCV’s proposals. He said the students’ suspensions for defying the flag ban will not be on their permanent records, and that the schools will not bar class rings that contain the emblem. Students will get zeros for work on days they missed.