Battle over Confederate flag brewing in Ringgold; opposition requests flag be placed inside Depot
Jeff O’Bryant

… A crowd packed Ringgold City Hall on Feb. 14 to present impassioned arguments for and against the flying of the Con-federate battle flag at the historic Ringgold Depot.

During renovations last year at the historic structure three flags were hoisted over the building — the Confederate battle flag, the current United States flag, and the U.S. flag of 1863.

Lifelong Ringgold resident Paul Croft said the Confederate banner symbolizes hate and fear for him.

Croft said the battle flag evokes memories of his childhood when his mother warned him to hide from the KKK, and he would peek out the window and watch them go by his house.

“We’re not saying get rid of the flag or hide the flag,” he said.

Citing Isaiah 1:18 from the Bible, Croft proposed a com-promise by displaying the flag inside the Depot as part of its museum rather than flying it outside.

Councilman G. Larry Black proposed another alternative. Noting that many people consider the banner a symbol of hate, Black made a motion to take down the battle flag and instead fly the original Confederate flag, similar to the current Georgia state flag. Councilman J.B. Petty seconded the motion, but the council voted the measure down with Black its only supporter.

After the meeting, Black said he does not want to offend anybody and was elected to represent all the citizens of Ringgold.

“We don’t need to be arguing about this,” he said. “I regret the city putting it up there.”

Though unsure what alternatives are available that will please both sides of the issue, Black said, “If I get the opportunity to vote to take it down, I will vote to take it down.”

David Terry, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, extended an invitation to those opposed to the flying of the Confederate battle flag to attend the group’s next meet-ing. He said through education both sides can come to a better understanding of the other.

“We stand against hate groups,” he said, claiming the flag is wrongly the focus of opposition to such groups.

“I know the flag becomes a target of the hate,” Terry said, “but we don’t like the flag being used by the hate groups, and we are as offended by their use of our flag as the African American community.”

Council member Martha Denton said she does not want the Confederate banner taken down and has received only positive comments about its display.

“It is beautiful,” she said.

Councilmen O.C. Adcock and Bill McMillon said they do not consider the flag a symbol of hatred, but conceded that more discussion is needed.

Petty said whatever measure the majority of the council votes for he will support. But he said he believes the flag should come down because of the feelings it causes in some.

“You have to draw the line and do what you think is best in your heart,” he said. “It’s a serious thing.”

Marshall Lumpkin, also a lifelong Ringgold resident, said he understands how “the flag is history for some people.” But it does not belong on public display, flown outside the Ringgold Depot, Lumpkin said.

Harry Reeves, pastor of Mt. Peria Missionary Baptist Church, said not everybody in the community is happy with the flag flying, and opposition is taking a holistic approach to the issue.

Ringgold resident Julie Wolff said the flag is not a race issue but a heritage and history issue.

“Yes, it may have been used as a symbol of hate by some redneck idiots but that is not its intent at the Depot,” she said. “My son should be able to know history as it was, not as how an older generation has formed it.”

Mayor Joe Barger said for him the issue is also one of heritage. He said his grandfather served in the Civil War on the side of the South, and he does not want the flag re-moved.

After nearly an hour of discussion the council agreed to postpone voting on the issue, pending further consideration and discussion.


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