By OWEN DRISKILL/Assistant Managing Editor
Source: The Greeneville Sun

H.K. Edgerton made his point with a few verses of “Dixie.”

He is black, and proud to be a Southerner. A former president of the Asheville, N.C., chapter of the NAACP, he is proud of the Confederate battle flag.

Edgerton made those views clear when his audience at the Crescent office building’s auditorium asked to sing “Dixie” Tuesday evening, and his voice was the loudest one in the room.

A descendant of a slave, Edgerton went on to state that he is proud of both his ancestry and the South.

Moreover, he has defended the Confederate battle flag and Southern heritage from Gettysburg, Pa., to Austin, Texas.

He spoke at a “Black History Month” presentation sponsored by the local John Hunt Morgan Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Whether delivering a speech to the crowd of about 25 people or composing a letter to President George W. Bush, Edgerton does not shy away from giving his opinions.

He is chairman of the board of advisors for the Southern Legal Resource Center, of Black Mountain, N.C., an organization whose brochure says it was founded in 1995 “for the specific purpose of aiding persons whose constitutional and civil rights have been violated in connection with their Southern heritage.”

Dressed in a Confederate butternut uniform and carrying the Confederate battle flag, Edgerton walked with his brother, Terry Lee, from Asheville, N.C., to Austin, Texas, in 2002.

He left on Oct. 14, 2002, Edgerton said, and reached Austin on Jan. 25, 2003, covering 77 cities and 1606.1 miles.

Letter To Bush

He outlined some of his views in a letter, written to President Bush in early November of 2004, that he read at the Tuesday-evening event. Quoting the letter, he read:

“Dear Mr. President:

“Earlier this week, the South, voting as a solid bloc for the first time in decades, helped you achieve a second term in office. Now I am writing to request a meeting with you to discuss ways of achieving cultural justice for millions of these same Southerners, who find themselves the victims of the only prejudice and discrimination still allowed in America.

“Mr. President, I am a black man, the descendant of slaves. I am a former NAACP officer. Yet, I am also chairman of the board of advisors of the Southern Legal Resource Center, an organization that advocates for Southerners’ civil rights.

“And in 2002, I carried a Confederate flag and marched 1,606 miles from Pack Square in Asheville to the Texas Supreme Court building in Austin, where I stood to demand the replacement of two Confederate plaques that had been removed.

“All along my march to Austin, I was greeted by an astounding outpouring of love and support from blacks and whites alike, ordinary Southerners, who share a common heritage.

“These people, my Southern family, hunger and thirst after righteousness. They have been fired from their jobs, had their reputations ruined and their lives disrupted, been ridiculed, libeled, slandered, injured and even killed for trying to express their pride in who they are and for trying to tell the truth in the face of the tyranny known as political correctness.

“Most deplorably, my people see their children force-fed politically correct lies in the public schools, where they are bullied and intimidated if they wear clothing depicting a flag that former President Carter called ‘a legitimate American icon.’

“Dr. Eugene Genovese, a northern-born, Harvard-educated scholar, has said, ‘We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity — an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white Southerners, and arguably black Southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity. They are being taught to forget their forebearers or to remember them with shame.’

“In short, there are a lot of Americans here in the South who are having some very un-American things done to them. This deeply offends the American sense of justice and freedom that was instilled in me from birth.

“I have carried my flag, the cross of the apostle Andrew, down enough American roads to know that nearly all Americans, as individual children of God, instinctively respect and honor each other’s history and heritage. The cultural holocaust that is ruining the American South is driven by self-serving special interest groups, media and politicians.

“That is why I am appealing to you. You are, after all, the duly elected leader of all Americans. . . .”

Comments On Slavery

Edgerton said he is an honorary lifetime member of more than 50 camps of Sons of Confederate Veterans. He said his ancestor, Hattie, was a slave in Rutherford County, N.C., on the property of a T.R. Edgerton.

Edgerton said Hattie’s son, John, accompanied T.R. Edgerton when he served as a surgeon in the Confederate army.

Press clippings provided by H.K. Edgerton on Tuesday night show him attending rallies or delivering speeches.

One clipping, for example, included a picture of him at an event in Columbia, S.C., in 2000.

Supporters of the Confederate flag organized the rally, which was part of that state’s fierce debate over whether the flag should stay atop the statehouse dome. Eventually, the flag was removed.

Edgerton spoke with a preacher’s rhythm, his voice undulating as he hammered home his thoughts.

“I am so very glad that my great-great grandmama Hattie didn’t get left behind

[in Africa], that she found her way into the southland,” Edgerton said.

On slavery, he stated, “I’m proud of my ancestry, proud of my southland.

“Most of the black folks didn’t even want emancipation around here. Because they looked around and saw how the free black folks were living, and you know they looked and said, ‘There’s some poor folks over there. I don’t want that.’”

“White folks, you need to get your heads up out of the sand,” he said later. “You’re so sorry about the institution of slavery. The whole world participated in it, including the Africans.

“Who’s going to talk about those black African kings who raided those villages? But yet still when you talk about the institution of slavery, all you’ve got to do is say ‘Southern white folks,’ and you take the blame for all of that.”

Edgerton closed by reciting a poem called “I Am Their Flag” by Michael Bradley.

Clutching a Confederate battle flag, he paced as he spoke verse after verse, closing with the lines “I am history. I am heritage, not hate. I am the inspiration of valor from the past.

“Look away, dixie land — I am their flag.”

March In Richmond

Edgerton, according to a press release from the Southern Legal Resource Center, visited Richmond, Va., today to lead a march “to dramatize the role of blacks in the Confederate war effort.”

“This is Black History Month and it’s time a lot of people out there got this part of black history straight,” Edgerton is quoted in the press release.

“This march honors not just blacks who actually served in the Confederate army, but also those people of color who kept the Confederate war effort going on the home front. And yes, that includes slaves.

“Slavery is a terrible thing, but ironically slavery in the southland of America produced bonds of loyalty and trust that helped keep the Confederacy going.

“It’s not politically correct to talk about that aspect of black history any more, but we will honor it by this march.”

Member Honored

An empty chair on the auditorium stage honored a charter member of the John Hunt Morgan Camp who died Jan. 23.

Beverly Neikirk said her husband, Bob, died of a stroke at the age of 57. A shell jacket, kepi (cap) and brogans (heavy work shoes) were placed on the chair in memory of Bob Neikirk.

Mrs. Neikirk said her husband had made the jacket and cap from a blanket, and that they are replicas of what a typical Confederate soldier would have worn. Her husband, she said, taught himself to sew and made uniforms for Civil War reenactors.

“It was a passion for him,” Beverly said. “So I just got involved too. I enjoyed listening to him talk to people about the clothing. He could tell you who wore what and when.

“This was our business. This was the way we made a living.”

Beverly Neikirk moved to Bulls Gap from Greenville, N.C., when she and Bob were married 2.5 years ago, she said. She said she plans to move back to North Carolina.

© 2005 East Tennessee Network

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