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Governor Appeals To Confederate Honor, Need To End Debate About Flag

November 27, 1996

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Former governors from both parties today joined Gov. David Beasley’s delicate push to remove the Confederate battle flag from atop the last Statehouse where it still flies.

The first-term Republican used a statewide television speech Tuesday night to portray the removal as a necessary way to counter what he called misuse of the flag.

``The Klan can misuse it as a racist tool, as it has, and others can misuse it solely as a symbol for racism, as they have,″ Beasley said.

``The Confederate flag is being torn asunder,″ he said. ``Our proud heritage and the courage of those who came before are being dishonored. I respect it and them too much to allow the flag’s misuse to continue.″

Fellow conservatives in his own party oppose Beasley’s plan to move the flag from the capitol dome to a Confederate soldiers’ monument on Statehouse grounds. But a popular Republican predecessor endorsed the plan this morning.

``The flag is being used now to sow hate,″ said former Gov. Carroll Campbell. ``This, in my opinion, will end the controversy and bring people closer.″

Former Govs. Robert McNair and John West, both Democrats, and former Republican Gov. James Edwards also appeared with the governor today. Former Democratic Gov. Dick Riley, the U.S. education secretary, sent his support, as did Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Beasley’s plan requires legislative approval.

Given equal time to respond on public television to Beasley’s speech, state Sen. Glenn McConnell compared the governor to ex-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who struck a deal with Adolf Hitler that failed to prevent World War II.

``Our governor tonight has asked you to give all to those who will give you nothing,″ McConnell said.

Beasley said recent burnings of black churches and a drive-by shooting of black teens by two men with Ku Klux Klan ties made it imperative to look at the divisiveness of the flag.

``Extremism breeds extremism, and because of this, those of us that honor the flag are labeled racist by some,″ Beasley said.

The flag, with a blue `X’ and white stars on a red field, was raised atop the Capitol in 1962 to mark the centennial of the Civil War. Critics say it was a slap at the civil rights movement.

Many blacks say the flag symbolizes slavery and racism. But polls have shown its presence is popular among the white majority. In the 1994 Republican primary, three of four voters said in a nonbinding referendum that the flag should continue flying where it is.

Beasley took that position during his 1994 campaign, but in recent weeks began quietly seeking support for moving the flag. A similar plan died in the Legislature two years ago.

While South Carolina is the only state that flies the battle flag atop its Statehouse, Mississippi and Georgia incorporate the flag’s design in their state flags.