Massive Confederate flag flies in Tampa

June 03, 2008

TAMPA — The Sons of Confederate Veterans this morning erected a massive flag — 30 feet high and 50 feet long — atop a 139-foot pole. The group claims that this is the "world’s largest" Confederate flag.

This morning was the second time that the flag — clearly visible from Interstate 75 in both directions — has been raised. It was put up briefly a few weeks ago when the group started fund-raising efforts for the flagpole and an accompanying Confederate memorial on a small plot of land west of Interstate 75 at U.S. 92. The flag was raised today in honor of the 200th birthday of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, organizers said.

The flag will be flown until sunset and will not reappear until the memorial is completed and dedicated, organizers said. No completion date has been set.

It took 20 minutes to raise the huge flag, said Eddie Gay, one of four men who took turns working a crank to hoist it.

"It felt good to see it flying. It’s just history, that’s all it is," Gay said.

Meanwhile, a five-man crew was busy spreading concrete at the site as part of the work on the memorial.

Plans for the flag and memorial started about four years ago, said John W. Adams, a Deltona resident who co-chairs the Confederate Veterans’ Flags Across Florida project.

Flags Across Florida started after the Confederate flag was removed from the Capitol in Tallahassee about eight years ago. So far the group has two major flags erected: one in Suwannee County along Interstate 75 and one in Havana along U.S. 27.

Adams insists the flag isn’t about racism or slavery. "It’s about honoring our ancestors and about celebrating our heritage," he said. "It’s a historical thing to us."

He hopes people who are offended by the flag will drive to the memorial and view the plaques honoring Confederate soldiers. They plan to have one dedicated to black Confederate veterans, he said.

Several nearby business owners don’t mind. It’s history, they say, and it’s on private property. Tampa resident Marion Lambert owns the small triangular plot just west of Interstate 75 along U.S. 92 E. But when Hillsborough County NAACP president Curtis Stokes heard about the plans to have the flag flying next year, he was shocked.

"I’m surprised that they would allow something like this to go on in Hillsborough County," he said.

The county has wrestled with sensitive Confederate issues in the past. In 1994, the Confederate flag was removed from the county seal. Last year, county commissioners recognized Confederate commander Robert E. Lee on the same day they honored a black civic leader. Commissioners later apologized and haven’t since recognized Lee.

© 2008 · St. Petersburg Times

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