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Battle flag waves to restore pride in southern heritage

By Luci Weldon, The Warren Record

If you were driving down the road and saw a black man carrying a Confederate flag, what would your reaction be?

Many of us would have to admit that we would be surprised to say the least because the sight of a Confederate flag is likely to spark strong emotions. To some, the symbol represents a part of the honorable history of people who held high principles. To others, the flag represents only hatred and oppression.

At times, these opposing viewpoints reach the forefront of discussion such as in the case of whether clothing depicting the Confederate flag is appropriate to wear to public school.

Asheville resident H.K. Edgerton, a black man, has proudly carried the Confederate flag over many, many miles in his mission to educate people of all races and ages about southern history so that southerners will be proud of their heritage.

On Monday, that mission brought him to Littleton and the start of a 160-mile march to Richmond, Va. He plans to travel about 15 miles a day, five days per week, all while carrying a Confederate flag.

"In Richmond, Virginia, the DuPont Company has banned Confederate symbols from their plant and have ignored requests to honor Confederate soldiers buried on their property, and this in the former capital city of the Confederate States of America," he said.

Edgerton serves as chairman of the board of advisors of Southern Legal Resource Center, Inc., which has an office in Black Mountain, and has been active with that organization for about seven years. He is also the immediate past president of the Asheville NAACP and is a life member of the NAACP.

A retired engineer, Edgerton and his brother later owned and operated an office products company in Fullerton, Calif.

Edgerton chose to begin his march at a monument located at Mosby Avenue in Littleton which honors Confederate Private John Leach, described as a pioneer in southern race relations. The monument is inscribed, "This is what he meant - All men up! Erected by his Colored Friends."

"I am very proud to call myself a Confederate American," he said. "I want to educate folks about our wonderful heritage. You can't find more honorable people than southerners."

He added that others are "trying to divide black people and white people."

"We are a family in the Southland of America," Edgerton said. "I caution you that if you don't know your history, you can't know where you are going."

As he began his march on Monday morning, he wore a Dixie Outfitters shirt and Dixie Outfitters jeans.

"What they want to do is tell the truth about southern heritage," he said, describing the owner of the company as "one of the finest gentlemen that I know."

Perhaps most of all, Edgerton hopes that young people of all races in the south will learn more about their history and be proud of that history.

"Our babies now don't know history," he said. "Southern people have always been some of the most patriotic, God-loving people in the country."

The journey which began Monday is not Edgerton's first march. In fact, he completed a 1,600-mile March across Dixie as well as a 260-mile march to attend the Confederate submarine Hunley funeral in South Carolina.

"When I walked to Texas, the deeper I traveled in the south, more black people came out to recall history, to talk about their heritage and their love for the south, all the black men who played a part in the (Civil) war, honorable men in the war," Edgerton said. "Black Confederates who earned places of honor are not talked about in the Civil War. It baffles me how you can talk about Black History Month and not Confederate History Month."

He noted that the heritage of southerners includes helping one another.

"The people of the south have always been a family together, then people tried to separate us," Edgerton said. "We are still a family here."

He went on to praise the "Christian white folks of the south."

"Blacks and whites are a family in the south," he said. "Whites have always been proud to see black people advance. It is now time for people to know our honorable heritage. I'm going to Richmond to reclaim the heritage of our honorable people."

Edgerton, describing the Confederate flag as the Christian cross of St. Andrew, added that others, such as the Ku Klux Klan, have caused an incorrect meaning to be associated with this symbol.

"History has been twisted around," he said. "It is time for all to know the truth, and our black babies to know that there is a place of honor under this flag for them."