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An Open Letter / March To Washington, D.C. / Comments To The Daily Progress
A member of the Garland Rhodes Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who just happened to accompany my brother and I along with his 9 year old son who would march alongside me for over ten miles as I made my way up Highway 29 North, would hold conversation with Mr. Bryan McKenzie, a most honorable reporter for The Daily Progress out of Charlottesville, Virginia. During that conversation, he would report to Mr. McKenzie that I was 65 years old, marching from my home in Black Mountain, North Carolina, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans marching to ask then President–elect Barack Obama to extend an olive branch to traditional Southerners. As you may or may not know, I am 60, soon to be 61 years old and my home town is Asheville, North Carolina. And I probably hold more Honorary and Associate memberships in the Sons of Confederate Veterans than any man alive. The mere fact that the aforementioned printed statements were not quiet factual did not take away from the excellent reporting of what I would later personally relay to Mr. McKenzie.
As a matter of fact, the response that we received from the public on the Saturday afternoon that we continued our journey after having spoke at the annual event honoring the Honorable General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson at his final resting place in his hometown of Lexington was astounding, and due in most part because of the article published in The Daily Progress. My fingers still ache from the number of those papers I was asked to autograph as we continued to make our way North. I make it a habit to not march on Sunday. However, because so many people, Black and White had exhibited so much love to us on that Saturday afternoon of January 17, 2009, Terry Lee decided that we should make an exception and march.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, The Times Progress had began posting comments about Mr. McKenzie’s article. I have learned to take criticism as well as the many awards and accolades that have been bestowed upon me in equal stride. However, it is quiet troubling to read the libelous comment posted from my very own hometown by some sham organization representing itself as Think Asheville, that I in fact was removed from the office of President of the Asheville Chapter of the NAACP after mismanaging the organizations funds. I know that the NAACP didn’t make this statement. To further their libel, it was reported that I work for the white supremacist group that a photograph which appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times taken of myself and two very honorable gentlemen. I know that they and the organization that was alluded to would take great exception and the appropriate legal recourse against this group or individual who posted this lie, one in which I recommend be forthcoming.
And furthermore, to have a former officer of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (Zebulon Vance Camp 15) , Mr. George Cooper, post the following comment: “I know Mr. Edgerton and he is well-intended, but most often misdirected, advocate for Confederate pride”. Please Commander, explain to me just what does that mean?
Mr. Cooper went on to say that, also, referring to me that, he is NOT a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (I am ), although he has been accepted as an honorary member at several camps. One has to provide credible evidence that he has a Confederate Veteran ancestor to become a member. There are some Negro members, but he is not one of them. You tell me Commander just what Mr. Cooper’s motive is and just why he would refer to these black men in this politically correct environment as Negroes, even though that term does not bother me; it just might bother them.
Furthermore, if the Sons want to air their dirty laundry publically, then let’s examine the so called disrespect that I am said to have exhibited at a Camp meeting to a Son of a Union Veteran at a Camp meeting. Having spent several hours sitting and standing on the traffic island at the corner of Lamar Alexander Parkway and Main Street in the beautiful city of Maryville, Tennessee, while donned in the uniform of the Southern soldier and holding his flag, I would listen in much sadness to the many conversations that would resonate from the citizens and students of how the removal of the Confederate Flag from the campus of Maryville High School and soon Blount County High right down the street was un-American and designed to cause unrest between Black and White folks where there had been none. I would return home with a very sadden and heavy heart. Stopping at the Southern Legal Resource Center office, I would review the email I had received for the day. It contained much of the same kind of rhetoric I had heard in Maryville. Two young men who were fighting in Iraq had written to me about their Commander directing them to take down certificates of their membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans because it was a terrorist organization, and if they did not, they would be reprimanded under article 15 of the military code of justice.
Later in this very same evening, I would attend what I consider my home Camps (Zebulon Vance Camp #15) meeting. The Camp commander would call upon a visitor to speak. The man got up and told us that he was from Ohio and in the Camp of the enemy (ha ha ha), and how he had met the Honorable Kirk D. Lyons at the SCV table at the State Fair. He said that Mr. Lyons thought that because of the pronunciation of his name that he might have a Confederate ancestor. He then said that he was glad to report that he could find none (ha ha ha). He went on to say that he was sorry what they (referring to the Union army and the Northern government) had done to us. (ha ha ha).
I as per usual when I attend any camp meeting, be asked to speak. I immediately told the gentleman that while he considered himself in the Camp of the enemy, it was no laughing matter to me because they were still doing the kinds of things he alluded to. I told him how my Southern babies were being force to hold their heads down and remember their ancestors in shame, how my children were being terrorized in the public school system if they dared to show up in their Dixie Outfitters garb or any item that depicted the Southern Cross, how Hollywood and this same public school purposely omitted the place of honor and dignity that the men and women who looked like me earned under the Christian Cross of St. Andrew. I then signed a copy of the Un-Civil War book written by dear friend Mike Scruggs and published by the Asheville Tribune, and had the Commander present it to him.
Several months later, I would be told by the then Commander, Chick Dillingham, that I was no longer welcomed at the Zebulon Vance Camp meetings because I had insulted their guest. I would later be told by a member of the Camp as I stood donned in the uniform of the Southern soldier, holding his flag in protest outside a traveling history exhibit for NASCAR in the City of Asheville: “ Mr. Dillingham said that it was ok for HK to carry our flag, but he is still a nigger and must stay in a niggers place, and can’t address a white man like he did”. I don’t know if Mr. Dillingham made these disparaging remarks. However, I have read some of his comments in other related articles and find them quiet disturbing. I find it quite disturbing that an officer of the SCV would think that he has the authority to ban me from a meeting for diplomatically speaking out against what I perceived as an insult and no laughing matter. I find it quite disturbing that as I have my life on the line, any member of the Sons would qualify what a membership is in this organization called the Sons of Confederate Veterans and devaluate those meanings and my status in the organization.
While the Times Progress reporter, the Honorable Brian McKenzie, wrote with great conviction an unprecedented truthful and unbiased article, I am deeply concerned that his paper would print the libel ranting about my tenure with the NAACP without having the regard to at least ask them of the truthfulness of the statements made.
I would later be told by a newspaper man that the statements made by members of the SCV in the Times Progress stopped the positive reporting that was being received on this journey to Washington. However, I am proud to report that on January 16, 2009, the day proclaimed as Lee/Jackson by the Governor of Virginia, up Highway 29 North donned in the uniform of the Southern soldier, carrying the Southern Cross, we marched. On January 19, 2009, the day of the Honorable General Robert E. Lee’s birthday as well as the Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King up 29 North, donned in the uniform of the Southern soldier, carrying the Southern Cross, confabulating with many, many citizens, while posing for their picture taking and championing the memory of the men and women of the South, Red, Yellow, Black and White who fought against their brother who had invaded their homeland. And on January 22, 2009, we would enter the Capitol Mall to the apparent astonishment of all who occupied the place, listen to a young black espouse to a rather large gathering of citizens who were now busily taking pictures; “he is putting his life on the line, any man who is brave enough to come here anytime carrying the Confederate Battle Flag, but at a time when we have a President of color embracing the likes of Abraham Lincoln, he is putting his life on the line and deserves high praise whether he is from the South or North.
I know that my great, great grandmother Hattie Edgerton who came to this country a slave to the Honorable T.R. Edgerton family from Rutherfordton County, North Carolina before the Declaration of Independence was signed, my father, and my dear mother who to my knowledge is the only Black woman to ever be given a Confederate State Funeral and whose namesake is used by the North Carolina Order of the Confederate Rose for a heritage award, the many Camps of the Sons nationwide like the Longstreet–Zollicoffer Camp #87, who on Saturday night presented me with the Clarke M. Roberts Memorial Award, in honor and recognition for the devotion to the cause of Southern Heritage and support of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the many Black folks who are proud that a man who looks like me would stand up for the honor of their forgotten ancestors who earned a place of honor and dignity serving the Confederate cause, would take exception to the remarks of Mr. Cooper and any others for the assassination on my character.