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East Tennessee State University / An Open Report / TK Owens
When the late Tennessee Division Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and my brother and dear friend the Honorable Jim Maddox put that infatuating smile on and proclaimed that he wanted to take you to some place, you immediately knew that you were in for a great adventure. And one summer day he escorted me to Sycamore Shoals State Park where we would watch the renowned rendition of the drama : “The Wautaugans”! Here at Sycamore Shoals was established the first permanent American settlement outside the original 13 Colonies and the Watauga Association- the first majority -rule system of American democratic government – formed in 1772. (please see www.Sycamore Shores Tennessee ) Commander Maddox would after the play introduce me to the only Black cast member , a very bright young man, T.K. Owens.
T.K. would relate to me that he was a student at East Tennessee State University. He went on to tell me about an incidence in his history class where he had been subjected to public humiliation and embarrassment by Professor, Andrew Slap. Mr. Slap had accused T.K. of lying about his family ancestral heritage when T.K. revealed to the class in a discussion about the War Between the States that his great, great grandfather had been a Confederate soldier. Mr. Slap told the class that T.K. was in fact lying because there was no such entity as a Black Confederate soldier.
After spending several days outside Stout Hall donned in the uniform of the Southern soldier and later in a meeting with the History department Head who would render an apology in behalf of the History department for the actions of Mr. Slap; I would inform T.K. of the action and consider the matter closed.
However, on January 6, 2009, at 2:43 PM, I would receive the following email message from T.K. : Dear Sons of Confederate Veterans, Wish me luck as I go to court to battle charges from… yes our ole friend… Andrew Slap. He asked me to leave his office after calling me a tale teller in regards to Black soldiers bearing arms in the War Between the States. He asked if he should call the campus security ? I said it would be my delight. He did so. Slap then said he would not call me a liar in front of these officers. After I said, “thank you” and walked out of his office, the Security proceeded to arrest me. Court date is 1/20/2009 at 1:30 PM, Johnson City/ washington Court Complex Annex. TK Owens.
On Tuesday, March 3, 2009, I would receive the following email message from TK: HK, Hello Sir! Good news to report. E.T.S.U. dropped the charges against me. I will not be in jeopardy if I stay away from the Campusfor (1 ) year. even though I am a graduate of East Tennessee State, I will adhere to this condition. thank you for all you do. T.K.
On Thursday morning, March 6, 2009 , I would arrive on the campus of East Tennessee State University. With the southern Cross in hand, I would position myself outside Stout Hall. Approximately one hour later, a young female campus security officer would arrive. I told her about T.K. and Proffessor Slap and T.K’s eventual arrest and banishment from the University. She told me that she had never heard about the matter and that because she was in security that in all likelihood if this had actually happened , she would and should have been told. She also told me that I was doing nothing wrong and that I could remain where I stood as long as I liked .
Thirty minutes later, a campus police car pulled to where I stood. A police Sgt. told me that while I had already been visited by one fellow officer, he needed to see my ID and wanted to know why I was there. He took my license and recorded the information from it upon a pad. He then also told me that he knew nothing of the incidence about T.K. and since I was causing no problems that I could remain where I stood. He offered an apology for disturbing me, and I said that no apology was necessary and that I appreciated him and his department looking out for me.
Thirty minutes later, two more gentlemen approached me. Opening up their jackets so that I could see the embroidered police badges on their shirts. One indicated that he was the Chief of security and the other was his Assistant Chief. Same question, why are you here, and do you have permission to be here? And you must secure permission from the office of Studen Affairs and if you secure that permission, there is a Free Speech Zone behind the libray where you must stand. I told them the same story about T.K. as I had told the officers, and that I been here on at least three other occasions and never been told that I had to garner permission to do so. The Chief and his assistant both said that they had never heard about the incidence envolving T.K., and surely as the two ranking security officers, if this had happened , they would have been notified about it. The Chief speaking as if to himself said, well you are just standing here with your flag, not preaching to anyone, not realy protesting, yet possibly envoking a response to your actions. His Assistant, seemingly somewhat agitated to where this conversation was going was somewhat insistent that I go and obtain permission for being there. I finally told the Chief that I was only going to be there for some thirty more minutesand he relented that I could remain for that short of time. After thirty minutes, as I began to furl my flag, I would be stopped by a young man who identified himself as being from the campus newspaper, and if he could interview me ?
I told him that I had promise the Chief of Security that I would leave in 30 minutes and that I was now three minutes late, but I allowed him the interview. Shortly after the interview began, a middle age Black woman would drive up, interupt the young man and I with the same inquiry. Why was I there, and had I secured permission to be there , and that she was the Director of Student Affairs? I told her that I had already been through that with the Chief and that as soon as this young man was finished , I would be leaving. She then said she was only asking to be sure that I had been made apprised of my rights. she indicated that she too knew T.K., but had not heard of this matter, and told the young man that as soon as he finished with his interview, to come immediately to her office with the information. Before she could pull off, two campus police cars pulled up . I told the Sgt. who I had spoken to before; I am leaving Sgt. as soon as this interview is over as I promised your Chief that I would do in thirty minutes. The young man told him that he had held me up for an interview.
I would leave the campus and head to Dixie Barbecue on North Roan Street to dine in my favorite eating place in Tennessee. As I began to eat, I noticed a very nice looking lady approach the counter and order a meal to go. She turned around and said, hello HK, I know that you must be around here doing something with your Flag. You don’t remember me , do you ? I used to work for Virgil Smith at the Asheville Citizen Times. The Times is my home town newspaper and Virgil Smith was the very first Black Editor and Publisher as well as being one of the most influential , philanthropic, and great men that I had ever known and one of my dearest friends . I remembered her immediately. I recounted the story of T.K. to her, and after I did, she reached into her pocket and gave me her card which read: FLORA CRAIG, REGIONAL COORDINATOR ( GEAR UP-EAST REGION ) TENNESSEE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMISSION / East Tennessee State University. She told me that DR. Bauch, the Provost was a good man and that she would take this matter up with him. It had now become a great day in Dixie. I hug her as she left, and felt better about the day.
I would return again on Friday, March 6, 2009. However because of the length of this report. I shall forward that report in another mailing.