Councilman wants Citadel to remove Confederate flag from Summerall Chapel

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published June 3, 2014

A Confederate Naval Jack hanging at The Citadel could cause the military college to lose nearly $1 million in Charleston County funding.

Councilman Henry Darby was approached seven months ago by two constituents who were concerned about a Confederate flag at The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel.

The flag was presented to former Citadel President Gen. Charles P. Summerall by the Cadet Yacht Club in 1939 as a “tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause,” according to the college.

A Confederate Naval Jack flag dating back to 1935 hangs in the back of Summerall Chapel at The Citadel. (Photo/Russell Pace, The Citadel)
A Confederate Naval Jack flag dating back to 1935 hangs in the back of Summerall Chapel at The Citadel. (Photo/Russell Pace, The Citadel)
Darby said money should not be given to a state-supported institution that displays a Confederate flag in a house of worship.

“I’m a graduate of the institution. From 2007 to 2011, I was there and never saw it,” Darby said. He earned an educational specialist degree in 2011 and a master’s in education in 2007, both from The Citadel Graduate College.

Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby
Darby
“I went back and there it was, and I was shocked,” he said.

Summerall chaplains dating back to the late 1980s told Citadel officials that the Naval Jack has been displayed in the back of the building for as long as they can remember.

Darby initially tried to have the flag removed quietly by meeting with the chairman of Charleston County Council, president of The Citadel, chairman of the college’s board of visitors and state-level lawmakers.

“They (The Citadel) said there’s nothing they can do about it,” he said. “They’re going to support the law — the South Carolina Heritage Act — that says they can fly it, that they must fly it.”

The act was passed in 2000 by the S.C. Legislature to protect monuments and memorials on public property that represent American wars or events of Native American and African-American significance, according to the college.

The flag in question hangs from the interior walls of Summerall Chapel with 56 other flags. When acoustical problems surfaced in the 1930s, some of the college’s civil engineering students recommended the president ask each governor to give a flag, according to the college. Flags were donated by states, territories and organizations.

Summerall described the chapel as a “shrine, not only of religion but of patriotism,” the college said.

Darby now plans to propose a $975,000 cut during tonight’s council meeting from the county’s accommodations tax fund. That money would be used by The Citadel to help pay for a bond that funded the restoration of Johnson Hagood Stadium.

He said he’d rather see the flag removed than the funding cut, and he has asked protest groups to stand down.

“$975,000 is a last resort in terms of procedures,” Darby said. “I didn’t want to bring attention to The Citadel, but I think the will is not there to have it removed. If the president had the will, he could have the means to have it removed.”

The original Confederate Naval Jack, made by Peggy Miller of Springfield, Mass., initially hung over the door of the chapel, according to the college.

The collection of chapel flags has been replaced at least twice since then, including in 1981 when the graduating class donated money to replace the state and territorial flags. The Georgia state flag, which displayed the Confederate battle flag on its banner between 1956 and 2001, was changed twice between 2001 and 2004, the college said.

Col. Cardon Crawford, director of government and community affairs at The Citadel, is planning to attend the Charleston County Council meeting tonight to listen to concerns about the flag and to present information on behalf of the college. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at 4045 Bridge View Drive in North Charleston.

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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