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The Man behind the Rebel flag

An interview with local Southern heritage activist H.K. Edgerton on his upcoming march to Texas, on his critics, and more

Editor’s note: On a fall afternoon Confederate flag waver and concerned Southern historian H.K. Edgerton sat down with Tribune reporter Clint Parker for an interview about his October walk to Texas.

H.K. Edgerton is a man of strong opinions, who is not afraid to speak his mind. This was the case this week when Edgerton was interviewed about his October walk from North Carolina to Texas.

Edgerton, the former head of the Asheville branch of the NAACP and for the last five years a defender of the Confederate flag and other related causes, plans to leave for Austin, Texas Monday, October 14th by foot. When asked what he was doing, Edgerton responded with a big smile, “Walkin’ across Dixie.”

The official title of the project is “March Across Dixie” and, according to Edgerton’s press release, has three purposes.

First, Edgerton says he wants to expand the awareness of the need to defend Southern heritage, history and the rightfulness of the Confederate cause here in the South and across the entire United States. The south had every legal right to secede and never should have been attacked for wanting to do so.

Second, Edgerton views the walk as part of an educational effort to show that Southern symbols are part of a proud heritage that should be defended, not scorned, as many liberal politicians, media and special interests would have you believe, he says. Southerners have a cultural experience of their own, and that culture needs to be defended from historical revisionists. The current ‘segregation’ of Southern culture, and particularly the Flag, by the uneducated liberals is no different from the ‘segregation’ that the blacks faced earlier.

Third, he plans to raise money and gain support to build a permanent heritage defense fund to be split between the Southern Legal Resource Center and the Sons of Confederate Veterans to guarantee “...our heritage and history survives and prospers despite the current attacks.” “Lying about the south and re-writing history so the people remain ignorant of what really happened only continues to separate the races.” Edgerton says he hopes to raise $2 million.

According to Edgerton, the Southern Legal Resource Center, a non-profit law firm that defends Southern heritage cases such as the flying of the Confederate Flag, currently has 12 cases that are about to go before the US Supreme court with hundreds of cases being phoned in “...all the time.” “I’ve influenced a lot of babies across the south land to stand up,” explains Edgerton, “Now they’re being sent home from school or forced to remove their Cross of St. Andrew (the original name of what’s now known as the Confederate Flag).” They’re calling on legal help from the center and Edgerton wants to help raise money for their defense.

The 1,300 mile walk is a tall order for the 55-year-old man. He’ll be
carrying a Confederate flag the whole way. Edgerton plans to take the journey 21 miles a day, six days a week. He plans to attend a local church on Sundays, give speeches and “kiss a lot of babies.” He thinks the journey
will take about four months to complete.

Edgerton considers his crusade a “fight for civil rights” and says, “I’ve fought for civil rights all my life and it doesn’t get any worse than this. It’s high time to have education for black and white folks about Southern history.”

Edgerton’s knowledge of the Civil War era differs greatly from what the usual textbooks, which he calls northern propaganda, teach.

Edgerton instructs that secession was an act provided for in the U.S. Constitution. No state had ever agreed to enter into a perpetual Union when it ratified the Constitution, and the South was not the first to discuss the idea. According to Edgerton, the New England states talked about secession during the War of 1812, and in 1814 the New England Federalists even held a secession convention in Connecticut.

Here are a few other insights Edgerton presented about the Civil War:

“Blacks fought for the South.”

“Lincoln fought the South to keep all the Southern tax money.”

“Southern generals have been made out to be traitors when they were very
honorable men.”

“Blacks could certainly walk around the south, but not around Lincoln’s Illinois.”

“America will never ever be great until the truth (about the Civil War) is told.”

“The only thing Lincoln did was to pit black and white against each other”

"The Constitution is what started the Civil War - taxes and states’ rights - not slavery.”

“Many blacks were free and they even owned slaves.” (This was documented in an Asheville Tribune article about the 1800s Sulfur Spring Resort in West Asheville.)

“Most white folks didn’t even own slaves.” “The first legalized slave was owned by a black man.”

According to Edgerton, the greatest Union desertion rates occurred just after Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation. Edgerton asserted, “Union Soldiers said they didn’t get into to this war to save the niggers.”

He believes the United States did a great disservice to the South after the war. Edgerton points out, “We (the United States) rebuilt Germany and Japan (after World War II), but we never rebuilt the south land. We need a Marshall plan for the South and we need it now.” “If you want to understand today’s race problems, you have to understand what went on during the ‘reconstruction.’ Anyone who knows nothing of that era is simply ignorant.” Edgerton has his own ideas about reparations too.

“The idea of reparations (for slavery) is a joke. It’s a way to drive a wedge between blacks and whites. The only hope they (the blacks) have is to hold their white southern brothers’ hand and join in calling for Southern reparations,” explains Edgerton. “My ultimate goal is to seek reparations for all Southerners.” Edgerton is not just talking about money either, but the South’s history that Edgerton says has been rewritten by the victors - the North.

Edgerton talked about some of his exploits and told of when he was standing on a bridge in Alabama with his Confederate Flag. He said a black woman stopped, jumped out of a car, hugged his neck and told him that she could now bring her grandfather’s uniform down out of the attic. It was a Confederate uniform.

He notes that when his zeal was put to work in the black community, he was called “a radical, loose cannon,” yet when he turned his attention to defending his Southern heritage he is called a “lackey and Uncle Tom.” “It’s ridiculous that a Nazi, Ku Klux Klan skinhead would use the Cross of St. Andrew to try and intimidate anyone. That’s my flag,” states Edgerton.

Edgerton says that in the Southern heritage circles he’s been affiliated with, “I’ve not run into one person who believes slavery was a good thing.” When it comes to defending Southern Hertiage, Edgerton admits “Southerners always will try to accommodate people because we are kind-hearted, but we’ve backed up too far,” he says.

Edgerton, who says he’s been made a member of the “White Trash Society,” says with a laugh, “It’s hard to be a white man 'cause we’re guilty of everything bad that happened.”

One of Edgerton’s detractors, Monroe Gilmour, who was named as a Coordinator with the Western North Carolina Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry, recently made comments about Edgerton in a national CNSNews. com story.

Edgerton was asked to respond to Gilmour’s statement that when Edgerton attended the Martin Luther King peace march with his Confederate flag that “It feels as if he is there in defiance of what we’re doing.” “See, here we go again,” responded Edgerton, “I’m there following Martin Luther King’s dream.” What dream is that? Edgerton says it’s the one where the son of a slave-owner could sit down with the son of a slave.

The Tribune contacted Gilmour to get his reaction to Edgerton’s response. Gilmour said that Edgerton was not marching with the parade, but standing on the side and, “It just felt as if he was there in defiance.” In the CNS article Gilmour said that Edgerton was “a pathetic soul who’s searching for love and has found it with white supremacists.”

Edgerton responded to Gilmour’s statement by saying that he had found love among the white supremacists and that Gilmour was the “pathetic soul.” Edgerton went on to say, “Monroe Gilmour speaks like he’s a black man. What is Monroe Gilmour? Mr. Gilmour is a liar and I have no respect for him. I don’t expect a man like that to know anything about history. Gilmour is the worst bigot I’ve ever met.”

“I don’t think there’s any need to respond to that,” said Gilmour when told of Edgerton’s response. In the CNS story Gilmour also compared Edgerton to a Holocaust denier who can be presented with evidence of slavery and its brutality and just dismiss it. Edgerton says that he’s never denied that slavery happened or that slavery was a bad thing.

“Well, that’s not the impression that he gives a lot of people,” Gilmour says, “It seems inconsistent.”

Gilmour further stated in the article that Edgerton has convinced himself that masters and slaves actually labored together to improve the South. Edgerton responded that after the Civil War former slave-owners offered freed slaves pieces of property to work, since Confederate currency was worthless. “I think he needs to go talk to some real historians,” says Gilmour.

Gilmour stated in the CNS piece that, “It’s our opinion that he is being used as camouflage for the white separatist and even supremacist use of folks like [the Southern Legal Resource Center’s] Kirk Lyons.” Edgerton responded, “I’m tired of people talking about Kirk Lyons. I’d give my life for Kirk D. Lyons.” To back up his claim that Lyons is not a racist he points to Lyons’ taking as clients blacks in Waco, Texas, a black man who was beaten by police in Hendersonville, and his legal help to the NAACP while Edgerton was president of the local chapter.

“He (Lyons) has always told me to turn the other cheek; damned if I’m going to turn the other check,” exclaims Edgerton.

Gilmour was asked by the Tribune about his group, Western North Carolina Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry. Asked who was on the board of directors, Gilmour replied that there were no board members. Asked how many members the group had, Gilmour said that it wasn’t a membership organization. Asked how the group was funded, Gilmour said by private individuals and small grants

So far, Edgerton has had to defend his beliefs with his blood. He was attacked by black men on two different occasions. Both attacks occurred here in his hometown of Asheville, NC.

So he continues to march to raise money to educate folks with the truth, to promote ‘heritage, and not hate,’ and to take the fight to the courts when it becomes necessary.