Sons of Confederate Veterans files petition against UM
Posted on Sep 30 2014
by Lacey Russell
The Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans has filed a petition for injunction against The University of Mississippi in hopes of deterring the street name change from Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane.
Natchez attorney Holmes Sturgeon, alumnus of The University of Mississippi Law School and legal representative of the organization, filed the petition Sept. 18 in Lafayette County Chancery Court.
“The purpose of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is to see that the memory of the Confederate soldiers is kept alive,” Sturgeon told The Daily Mississippian in a telephone interview. “Therefore, there is no real compromising on issues like this, in my opinion.”
Allen Terrell, former Ole Miss student and current resident of Natchez, is the direct descendant of two Civil War veterans – both of his great-great grandfathers fought and died while serving as privates in the Confederate army.
Today, Terrell said he respects his ancestors by serving as Mississippi Division Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“We don’t necessarily celebrate the war,” Terrell explained of his organization. “We realize that was a bad time. It was a pivotal time in our history, but we honor and celebrate the men that fought for the cause which they believed at that time was right.”
As a result of the discriminatory incidents that occurred on campus over the last few years, Chancellor Dan Jones released an action plan in August for cultivating a more inclusive environment at the university. The six-fold strategy included changing the name of the one-block street known as Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane.
“The chancellor is trying to make the university an extremely diverse and welcoming place,” Terrell said. “He appears to be isolating groups like ours though – Mississippians that care about their Southern heritage. Why don’t we get to figure into this diversity?
“If you’re going to be diverse, is it just diversity for minorities? I mean diversity encompasses everybody.”
Both Terrell and Sturgeon believe renaming Confederate Drive is in direct violation of a state statute that says no monuments or memorials from the Civil War erected on public property, shall be relocated, removed, disturbed, altered or renamed.
Sturgeon said due to the lack case references in the annotated code, he believes the statute has not yet been tried in court of law.
“Now it doesn’t say off in there that Confederate Drive can’t be changed,” Sturgeon explained. “However, it does say that streets and roads of that nature that are (historically named) can’t be changed.
“I’m sure there’s always a ‘can’ wherever there’s a ‘can’t,’ because there’s some circumstances in which it probably could be changed, but the Supreme Court has never heard a case on that particular law yet.”
UM attorney Lee Tyner said the university was served the petition for injunction last Friday.
“We’re confident that we have the ability to change that street name, and we’re also committed to not violating any laws,” Tyner said in a telephone interview. “We’re comfortable that if the judge reviews what we’ve done, that it’s fully within what we can do legally.”
Terrell said he is aware of the negative connotation surrounding the word “confederacy” today. He explained his organization does not condone or support actions of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, and over the last year, he has removed some Sons of Confederate Veterans members for Klan affiliation.
“You need to put your mindset back in the 1860s when you’re talking about what our organization represents,” he said. “If we were racists, would we have black members in our organization? If we were racist, would we have Jewish members? Would we have Hispanic members? We’re not some white, Aryan group.
“We are a heritage organization. Our only goal is to honor our ancestors, and make sure that people know the true history of the South.”
The name of Confederate Drive has officially been changed to Chapel Lane since Sturgeon’s filing of the petition 12 days ago. He said a hearing for the injunction has been noticed for Oct. 27.
“If they want to go all the way, then I’ll go all the way for the rest of my life,” Sturgeon said. “I don’t mind doing that until the day I die. We’ll just go on and on until we get something that will assure us that the monument to the Confederate soldiers is left right where it is, that the cemetery is not disturbed and the road leading to the cemetery is not disturbed or renamed or defaced or desecrated.
“It is a lawsuit. It is litigation. It is a petition for something, and we are going to get to the bottom of it.”