Confederate flag in Higginsville sparks controversy

Thursday, June 9, 2005

The flying of the Confederate flag over a Missouri historic cemetery has incited many and renewed controversy over a historic symbol which is seen by many as racist.

On Sunday, June 5, the flag was flown over an afternoon memorial service honoring Civil War soldiers buried at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville.

It was raised on a state flagpole below the U.S. and Missouri flags at the service which drew a crowd of hundreds. Meanwhile a smaller crowd protested outside the Missouri Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City.

The flag had flown daily at the site until January 2003 when former Gov. Bob Holden placed an administrative order which removed it from Higginsville and the Fort Davidson State Historic Site in Pilot Knob.

Gov. Matt Blunt ordered the rebel flag to be flown again over the Higginsville cemetery for one day, last Sunday. A spokesman for the governor said Blunt also supports a scholarly review of whether it would be appropriate to regularly fly the flag at the site.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is up in arms over the display, saying the flag epitomizes ideologies which devalue human life.

"For anyone to imply or even suggest that a symbol that was used to terrorize, threaten, intimidate, bully and frighten individuals can somehow retain any value in our society is absurd," an NAACP press release said.

Mary Ratliff, NAACP State Conference president said that giving the appearance of Missouri's support of the Confederate flag and what it represents is "an affront and insult to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the Union, the Constitution and this United States."

"Sunday [was] a sad day for Missouri because the governor has turned his back on an inclusive and united America," Ratliff said.

Those supporting the flag argue that it is an appropriate symbol for ceremonies honoring Confederate soldiers.

Dr. Patrick Hardy of the Sons of Confederate Veterans camp in St. Louis said his great-grandfather was an officer in the Confederate Army.

"He fought under the Confederate battle flag, as did many others and many died under that flag," Hardy said. "The Confederate battle flag represents the cause for which they fought and died, and [it] honors their memory. It doesn't, as some people would have you believe, represent slavery."

He said Congress enacted a law in the 1950s declaring Confederate veterans should be granted the same benefits and honor as U.S. veterans.

"On Memorial Day and Veterans' Day we honor those men and women who have fought for this country. We fly the U.S. flag at the cemeteries where they are buried and place small U.S. flags on their graves to honor their memory," Hardy said.

Hardy said he supports the battle flag of the South in Higginsville in honor of the Confederate soldiers buried there. "Furthermore, I believe that the Confederate battle flag should fly at every cemetery in Missouri on Confederate Memorial Day," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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