Attorney General says Confederate flag must stay up at The Citadel’s chapel

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published June 11, 2014

Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office released an opinion (.pdf) Tuesday that said a Confederate flag hanging at The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel must stay.

S.C. Sens. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, and Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, had requested the attorney general’s opinion after Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby asked that the flag be taken down and proposed a $975,000 cut to money budgeted for the restoration of Johnson Hagood Stadium.

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)
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Darby was approached seven months ago by two constituents who were concerned about the flag, which was presented to former Citadel President Gen. Charles P. Summerall by the Cadet Yacht Club in 1939. It was given as a “tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause,” according to the college.

Darby said he initially met with the chairman of Charleston County Council, president of The Citadel, chairman of the college’s board of visitors and state-level lawmakers about the flag. He said leaders at The Citadel would not remove the flag because of the S.C. Heritage Act, which was passed in 2000 to keep certain flags flying.

The act says: “No Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Native American or African-American History monuments or memorials erected on public property of the state or any of its political subdivisions may be relocated, removed, disturbed or altered.”

In its opinion, the attorney general’s office said, “The General Assembly has mandated, by virtue of the Heritage Act, that monuments and memorials honoring the gallantry and sacrifice in this state’s various wars are protected. The law protects this flag as it does other memorials of other wars.”

Darby said last week that he expected Wilson to defend the college. He said if that happened, he would ask the S.C. state conference of the NAACP to become involved, adding that officials from the NAACP had offered to protest or work to remove the flag on three occasions.

“He’d be falling on his own sword if he spoke out against The Citadel,” Darby said last week. “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.”

In a July 2001 opinion, the attorney general said there are more than 170 Confederate monuments and markers throughout South Carolina and “virtually all were presented to South Carolina towns and villages by private groups.”

The Naval Jack at Summerall Chapel hangs with 56 other flags that were donated by states, territories and organizations.

The original Confederate Naval Jack, made by Peggy Miller of Springfield, Mass., hung over the door of the chapel, according to the college.

The collection of chapel flags has been replaced at least twice since then, including in 1981 when the graduating class donated money to replace the state and territorial flags. The Georgia state flag, which displayed the Confederate battle flag on its banner between 1956 and 2001, was changed twice between 2001 and 2004, the college said.

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

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