Confederate group about to face test

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have been the source of much news copy this year for the News-Herald and other newspapers.

First there was the controversy at Riddick’s Folly over the exhibition of the Confederate Flag. The license plate issue has been an ongoing one. And in the spring, sparks flew over then-mayor Curtis Milteer’s proclamation – at the behest of the Sons of Confederate History and Heritage Month in Suffolk.

Throughout all of these, opponents have claimed that the group and its symbols represent racism and all that is ugly about the Old South. The Sons have countered that theirs is an organization dedicated to honoring their heritage and the people who fought and died to defend themselves, nothing more.


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They have prevailed in each of the aforementioned instances. Now their claims are being put to the test.

Yesterday, the Sons opened their annual convention in Memphis and the spotlight is on whether a candidate with white-supremacist ties will win a top post in the organization.

A candidate for commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, one of the SCV’s three national divisions, is Texas lawyer Kirk Lyons, who has talked of &uot;Southern ethnic cleansing&uot; and has represented members of the Ku Klux Klan.

&uot;The troops are formed,&uot; Lyons says in campaign literature. &uot;For years they have been waiting for an officer to blow the whistle and send the troops over the top.&uot;

Critics accuse Lyons of being too radical, while supporters say he simply wants to give the group some backbone to stand up to those who seek to wipe out symbols of the Confederacy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Montgomery, Ala.-based organization that follows the activities of extremists, says Lyons has had a long association with white supremacist groups.

&uot;We are trying to warn members of the SCV that there is an attempted takeover by serious white supremacists,&uot; said Mark Potok, editor of &uot;Intelligence Report,&uot; a magazine published by the law center.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has won tremendous victories for their cause over the past year by championing their heritage and staunchly fighting any implications that they are even remotely racist. It’s time to back up their words with their actions. Electing Lyons to the post he seeks would undo every gain the group has made and put them in an indefensible position.

If they mean what they say, they will not let that happen.