History buff wants to educate public on heritage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

As a kid, Fred Taylor was always building foxholes and playing soldier in his backyard.

Now 20, Taylor still plays soldier – but his playground extends far beyond the folk’s property line.


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Today, Taylor – commander of the Tom Smith Camp #1702, Sons of Confederate Veterans in Suffolk – frequently spends weekends bringing his Civil War roots to life as a Confederate re-enactor.

&uot;I’m a lowly private,&uot; said Taylor, a member of Company G, 9th Virginia Infantry for the past four years.

Fighting battles like ones where thousands died standing up for the Confederacy can evoke awesome emotions, Taylor said.

&uot;There are moments where it sent chills up your neck, especially when you are in the heat of battle,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;I don’t want to take away from the men who served this country then or now.

&uot;But the sound of gunfire, the smoke and the constant movement of leading to charge or retreat takes you to a different world,&uot; he said. &uot;It sometimes gets to a point in battle that you lose track of the fact that you are acting. It becomes real.&uot;

Always a history buff, Taylor got hooked on learning more about his family’s role in the Civil War when his fourth-grade teacher assigned a genealogy project.

&uot;That’s when the bug bit me,&uot; he said. &uot;Until then, history had always seemed rather abstract to me…because it was about some unknown person many years earlier.&uot;

&uot;That’s when I realized that what I thought was abstract wasn’t …because it was about my family. It was personal.&uot;

This weekend, Taylor and his Tom Smith comrades are participating in the city’s Civil War Heritage Weekend in downtown Suffolk.

&uot;I’m just looking forward to everything,&uot; said Taylor. &uot;This is a great opportunity for the city to tie all its historic sites together…and other cities have proven that it (the Civil War) is a great economic asset to tourism.&uot;

Taylor said he was disappointed – but not really surprised – by Mayor E. Dana Dickens III’s recent refusal to sign a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in Suffolk.

Just requesting the proclamation gave the SCV an opportunity and avenue to educate the public on the area’s Civil War heritage, he said.

&uot;I don’t think our request was in vain,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;I will ask for the same thing next year, no matter who the mayor is.&uot;

&uot;I think it is something we can use to getting our foot in the door to schools.&uot;

Name? Fred D. Taylor.

Age? 20.

Hometown? Suffolk.

Family? Parents – Wayne & Nita Taylor of Suffolk; one brother – David Taylor, and his wife, Valerie, of Smithfield; my girlfriend, Adrienne Warren of Chesapeake; and last, but certainly not least, my Labrador retriever, Willis Taylor.

Education? I graduated from Nansemond River High School in 2001 and will graduate from Old Dominion University with a history degree in December. Then, it’s on to law school.

Career/occupation? Full-time student, political activist, history buff, and future lawyer.

Volunteer activities? Commander of the Tom Smith Camp #1702, Sons of Confederate Veterans in Suffolk; Confederate re-enactor with Company G, 9th Virginia Infantry; member of the Theta Xi chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society at ODU; and volunteer legal assistant at the Southern Legal Resource Center, a non-profit legal foundation that specializes in Southern civil rights issues.

Favorite thing about Suffolk? As one of my favorite songs goes, &uot;There are few things pure in this world, and home is one of the few.&uot; (&uot;O.A.R. – I Feel Home.&uot;)

Describe your vision of downtown Suffolk five years from now? With the recent development of Suffolk’s rich history and heritage, coupled with progressive moves such as the new conference center, Suffolk is getting put back on the map. Our city has all to gain from its downtown revitalization, and will attract visitors and businessmen alike in the coming years.

In end, jobs will be created, the local economy will boom, and Suffolk can and will be proud of what is has created.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I have always been interested in our government and law in general, especially when it comes to constitutional issues. As a lawyer, I hope to make a difference with the cases I encounter and the people that I meet. Everyone thinks that &uot;lawyer&uot; is a dirty word these days – I would like to change that. Our country, our Republic, is the greatest ever created – the people who defend it, lawyers, should be regarded as highly.

Favorite thing about your job? School is my job these days, but overall, the best thing about it is the challenge surrounding it.

I am always pushed to my fullest, and encouraged to seek the answers to my problems or questions – not by them simply telling me, but by me researching and working out the answer on my own.

Least favorite thing about your job? Research papers, which all seem to be due the same week!

What accomplishments are you proudest of? I am proudest of my role as director of the Sam Davis Youth Camp, a program created by the Sons of Confederates Veterans for youths interested in Southern history. It is through these youths that pride, respect, and honor for our history will continue, and I am humbled to be a part of it.

&uot;As the noted philosopher and historian George Santayana once wrote, &uot;Those who do not know their history will be destined to repeat it.&uot; From our efforts, I am certain that will not be the case.

Who or what motivates and inspires you? My family, my friends, and God are my strength. Life is filled with many ups and downs, but I am blessed to be surrounded by those who support and uplift me. Because of that, I have a duty to them to be my best.

Favorite way to spend free time? Free time? What is that? I am a college student!

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? General Thomas J. &uot;Stonewall&uot; Jackson said it best, &uot;You may be whatever you resolve to be.&uot;

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Good music, great food and beautiful women – all of which are in abundance in the South.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? Probably answering my cell phone from those calling me to tell me they saw me in the newspaper – or at least that’s what my girlfriend says!