Outrageous Confederate Memorial Day Celebration, Beaufort, SC (4-26-03)

On Saturday, April 26, I attended the Beaufort, SC Confederate Memorial Day celebration. It was also a time to spend with the families that had children suspended from the government school system there for wearing any trace of their Confederate heritage on their clothing. Quite frankly, they are good people to be around. None better anywhere on earth, I can attest. But wait a second… better read on.

When I arrived early morning, the FreeSouth.org bandwagon was already there and had most of their heritage banners flying high. You can’t believe what they bring without actually seeing it up close. Very visually impressive. I would suggest to anyone that the next time FreeSouth.org comes to your area, go see it! I then looked around for John Cripps and there he was among the people and in the thick of things and sweating along with everyone else in getting the props up for the day. John is a ‘hands on’ type leader and from start to finish. He doesn’t just show up, he shows up and makes things happen, all within a festive atmosphere. This FreeSouth.org group (yep, I’m a member) came in from all over the South just for these kids, and in an organized, almost military attack formation. Look out anti-Dixie crowd and run like the dickens if you see FreeSouth.org coming! I’m also happy to say the League of the South (yep, I’m a member) was well represented, as were the ‘Sons’ (yep, you know). Other heritage groups (careful, I might join) also converged on this little sleepy coastal town.

We even had our own modern Southern heroes (as I’ll call them, however they would probably be embarrassed by that, but I heard other people say it also) in attendance as guests. South Carolina’s barbecue king Maurice Bessinger was there signing his books for everyone, telling stories, smiling for pictures and doing what he obviously does best outside of cooking… making people around him feel good. Dewey Barber, President of Dixie Outfitters, the maker of the shirts that somehow created this controversy, attended also and was virtually surrounded by people wearing his shirts. To see this very polite, low-key Southern gentleman and then think of the children suspended from school for wearing something he made, just did not add up. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to these gentlemen, both together and individually, and they didn’t seem very threatening. In fact they both seemed like someone you would want for a neighbor. Strange times we live in.

Many of the kids involved in the school suspensions were tending to the cooking of hamburgers and hotdogs and manning the tables selling heritage items and raffle tickets. These were the best-behaved young people (and polite) and just all seemed excited to be part of something good. They were wearing Dixie Outfitters’ shirts and looked about as threatening as ‘Moon-pies, Chevrolet and the CSA’. The Armstrong family was given a loud and warm reception by everyone and said a few words along with other local ‘rabble-rousers’. These were the evil suspended types? No offense, but when I start my new ‘gang of bad guys’ I ain’t recruiting here! Boy, strange times we live in.’

The band ‘Bounty Hunter’ came and played ‘for the cause’. Oh yeah, we had police ‘protection’ all over the place. I thought we were under terrorist attack for a while until talking with the local ‘protectors of the peace’ clad in semi-swat gear. Ironically, many of them were very supportive of us and enjoyed themselves by all accounts. They were however, there under orders and were to keep an eye out for bad guys or in case these here ‘outlaws’ went outside the law. It was tough but we controlled ourselves.

The local ‘press’ also showed up. A female photographer with a strange short hair style (remember the strange times we live in) and a young black male reporter were given the unenviable task of reporting on the mostly Christian and boringly polite white folk gathering. Not that you had to be Christian or white… everyone was truly welcome, but I can hear the editor that morning saying “OK, let’s see, yeah… you two over there, go cover the protest… and don’t worry, you’ll fit right in and get their confidence.” Interestingly, their story out Sunday morning gave credit to a song written for the event to a person who has never written a song and summed up the attendance at 50 people. (What?) As the writer of the song and as I would estimate the crowd over the 4 hour period as probably 200 plus people, the editor of the local paper might reassign his top reporting duo in the future. Maybe they should hire me? Nah… I’m a white Christian male with (I can’t say long) longer hair than the staff photographer.

On a neat side note, I saw the 56 banner flying proud just over the border from South Carolina (probably the SCVs doings?) and later that day heading south on I-95 through Georgia, I saw parked on the side of the interstate near Brunswick, a van which had a large flag pole beside it again with the 56 Georgia flag and the naval banner proudly unfurled right below. It was RIGHT NEXT TO ALL THE CARS WHIZZING BY AT 80 MPH and they’re honking like crazy in support of the people’s flag and waving and pumping their arms in the air. Sitting next to the display just as though it’s a day at the beach was a man by the name of Gene Spaulding, proud (and outraged) as a peacock. I had to stop and shake his hand. We talked politics amid the honking of the cars (and especially the truckers if that tells you something?). Yep, thousands of vehicles all over heck and we are talking the Confederacy and having a good ol’ time with the car and truck horns sounding like a symphony! I really hated to leave but finally said good-bye, as I had to get home yet that night. But I couldn’t believe the audacity of Mr. Spaulding. He’s worthy of being in Stonewall’s Brigade. Sir, if you read this… my hats off to you.

Well that’s what my Confederate Memorial Day was all about. To you Beaufort kids, as General Forrest said, “Don’t give an inch.” To John Cripps, thank you on behalf of all that love Dixie. And we’ll be waiting to hear about what happened to you on Thursday April 24, in Beaufort. There’s more to come out of Beaufort yet and for some time.

Reporting for the Southern Heritage News & Views, this is Robert Lloyd.

Original Link (with photos): http://www.songsplaysmusicals.com/Beaufort%20SC.htm

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