County Council asks for attorney general to issue opinion about Confederate flag

The Confederate Naval Jack hangs from the interior of Summerall Chapel with 56 other flags that were donated by states, territories and organizations. (Photo/Russell Pace/The Citadel)

The Confederate Naval Jack hangs from the interior of Summerall Chapel with 56 other flags that were donated by states, territories and organizations. (Photo/Russell Pace/The Citadel)

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published June 5, 2014

Nearly $1 million in Charleston County funding for The Citadel is going to depend largely on an opinion from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Councilman Henry Darby, who was approached seven months ago by two constituents who were concerned about a Confederate flag at The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel, thinks Wilson will ultimately defend the military institution’s stance that hanging the flag is acceptable because of the state’s Heritage Act.

If that happens, Darby said he would be forced ask the S.C. state conference of the NAACP to become involved.

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The college said the Confederate Naval Jack dates back to 1935 and 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.”

Darby said he met recently with officials from The Citadel and they did not reach an agreement on the issue. Darby has since proposed cutting $975,000 from the county’s accommodations tax fund that was slated to be used to help pay for restoration of Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Darby said he doesn’t want to see funding cut from his alma mater. He’d be satisfied if The Citadel agrees to move the flag from the chapel to a museum. The councilman earned an educational specialist degree in 2011 and a master’s in education in 2007, both from The Citadel Graduate College.

On Tuesday, Charleston County Council agreed to leave the money where it is until the attorney general decides whether removing the flag would violate the state’s Heritage Act. 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 American Indian and African-American significance, according to the college.

Darby expects Wilson’s decision, which was requested by Sen. Larry Grooms and Sen. Danny Verdin, to come in a week or so.

“I don’t think he’ll rule on the side where the flag is not protected. He’s not going to go against The Citadel,” Darby said. “He’d be falling on his own sword if he spoke out against The Citadel.”

Since the flag was brought to the council’s attention, Darby said he’s received numerous voicemails, emails and text messages calling him a racist and several inappropriate names.

“I hate to think that as a Southerner I’d get that kind of treatment,” he said.

Darby said officials from the NAACP have offered on three occasions to protest or work to remove the flag. Darby said he intends to enlist their help if Wilson says the flag is displayed legally.

“If push comes to shove and my back is against the wall, there will be nothing else I can do but to ask for their help,” Darby said.

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

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