Controversy grows around Confederate Texas license plates

October 14, 2011

AUSTIN — From those supporting high schools and universities to those sporting logos of professional sports teams like the Houston Rockets, the more than 100 specialty license plates offered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) are a chance for many to make a statement.

Now some say a proposal by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a national heritage group, would make a statement considered offensive by many.

The group has applied to TxDMV for a specialty license plate featuring the group’s logo — the Confederate battle flag.

Marshall Davis belongs to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Austin camp and spoke to KVUE in the shadow of the state monument to Confederate dead.

"We would like to honor the Texans who fought for the Confederacy and who died for the Confederacy," said Davis.

Texas NAACP president Gary Bledsoe doesn’t see it that way.

"You can put a dress on a hog, but it’s still a hog," Bledsoe said.

Along with representatives of the group Progress Texas, Bledsoe appealed Wednesday to TxDMV’s nine-member board in charge of approving or disapproving the plate’s design.

Bledsoe says the image is hurtful and shouldn’t appear to be endorsed by the state.

"It continues as a symbol of serious hate," said Bledsoe.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is also a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who have sponsored similar plates in nine other states. Patterson has also sponsored a plate honoring the Buffalo Soldiers — black federal soldiers involved in the battle against American Indians.

"Those are iconic elements of our shared history," Patterson explained, saying the intent is to honor veterans of an important historical period. "This plate is more about the soldier than it is about the war."

"Use a symbol that is not going to provoke fighting, that is not going to engender feelings of fear, intimidation," said Bledsoe.

Patterson in turn questions whether the timing of the controversy has to do more with Texas governor Rick Perry who appointed TxDMV’s board members and whose presidential campaign has placed him on the national stage.

"If we were to change the application to put this flag instead of the battle flag, would he withdraw his objection?" asked Patterson.

No date has been set for a vote, however a decision could come in November.

Governor Perry has not commented on the issue.

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