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Rebel Sons Rally For Confederate Tags

Article published Apr 1, 2006
By Bill Cotterell

Capitol news conferences don’t usually start with a former NAACP
president leading a blue-and-gray squad of Civil War re-enactors
in a chorus of "Dixie," followed by a Rebel yell.

But the idea of putting the Confederate battle emblem on thousands
of Florida license tags is something Southern partisans can get
fired up about – even if it’s a lost cause. So the members of
the state chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans were in high
spirits Friday as they began a campaign to persuade legislators
that Florida should join nine of its neighbors in commemorating
its Civil War history.

H.K. Edgerton, a former president of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, from Asheville, N.C., and
Nelson Winbush of Kissimmee, a retired educator who traces his
Southern lineage to a black soldier in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s
command, joined the SCV call for a commemorative tag. The conference
opened with "Dixie," with young men wearing Yankee and
Confederate uniforms smiling and singing behind Edgerton.

"It is not racist to promote a common heritage," he
said. "There will be those uninformed individuals who will
attempt to categorize this plate in unflattering terms."

Winbush said "some young whites have the same problem about
declaring their heritage" in the South.

Edgerton said many black people have been wrongly taught that
the Confederacy stood only for slavery and oppression. But he
said there were blacks fighting on both sides of the Civil War
and that blacks should take pride in contributions to the region’s

Gov. Jeb Bush had Florida’s 1861-65 state flag removed from the
west steps of the Capitol, along with four other flags that flew
over the state at various times. It’s almost impossible that a
tag bill could be introduced and reach his desk during the second
half of the 2006 session, since the process requires sponsors
to conduct a survey of 30,000 automobile owners and show a likelihood
that sales would be worth the state’s time and expense in issuing
a tag.

Rep. Will Kendrick, D-Carrabelle, said the SCV asked him to introduce
the bill last month but the filing deadline had already passed.
He said he would "consider sponsoring it, depending on where
the money goes" in the 2007 legislative session.

"As much as I support Southern heritage, that’s one you
have to be careful with," said Kendrick, whose district sprawls
across the Big Bend from Alachua County to Apalachicola. "We’ve
already got too many specialty tags. I’m not going to be opposed
but it’s a sensitive subject."

Bob Hurst of Tallahassee, wearing a gray uniform with ornate
gold trim, said the SCV would find legislative sponsors once they
muster public support for the tag.

"There are tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands
of people who would be proud to have this license plate on their
vehicles," he said. "We feel that those people deserve
the opportunity to buy that flag, to buy that tag and have it
on their vehicles."

John Adams of Deltona, chairman of the license-tag drive, said
proceeds from plate sales help with restoration of the original
Confederate flags in the Museum of Florida History. He said maintaining
cemeteries and erecting and repairing markers of soldiers – on
both sides – would also be a priority.