Despite previous governors’ refusals, McDonnell issues Confederate history month proclamation

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly declared April 2010 Confederate History Month, bringing back a designation in Virginia that his two Democratic predecessors — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — refused to do.

Republican governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore issued similar proclamations. But in 2002, Warner broke with their action, calling such proclamations, a "lightning rod" that does not help bridge divisions between whites and blacks in Virginia.

This year’s proclamation was requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A representative of the group said the group has known since it interviewed McDonnell when he was running for attorney general in 2005 that he was likely to respond differently than Warner or Kaine.

"We’ve known for quite some time we had a good opportunity should he ascend the governorship," Brandon Dorsey said. "We basically decided to bide our time and wait until we had more favorable politicians in Richmond."

Dorsey said the governor’s stamp of approval would help the group publicize the month and aide tourism efforts in the state.

"As I read it, this proclamation is more designed to get people to study the issue rather than simply being a tribute," he said. "We would like everyone in the state to honor the sacrifice of the brave men who went out and died in battle. At the very least, we’d like them to study why they went out and did it. And I think the proclamation could be construed either way."

The language can be seen on the governor’s Web site.

Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy.

Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) said he was "stunned" to learn of McDonnell’s decision and even more stunned that the proclamation did not include any reference to slavery. "It’s offensive,” he said.

The proclamation is one of about two dozen McDonnell has issued since his inauguration in January. Many, but not all, are posted on the office’s Web site.

— Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman

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