WARNER WANTS TO MEET CONFEDERATE ADVOCATES

Saturday, January 19, 2002
By TYLER WHITLEY (twhitley@timesdispatch.com)
Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Gov. Mark R. Warner issued a proclamation yesterday affirming his support of the state's Lee-Jackson holiday and said he would like to meet with Confederate sympathizers.

But Warner said he did not want his staff or administration officials to participate in Lee-Jackson holiday events.

Warner rebuked his anti-terrorism czar, former Lt. Gov. John H. Hager, for agreeing to be the keynote speaker at the second annual Lee-Jackson holiday celebration at the state Capitol yesterday. Hager decided not to speak.

Yesterday was an official state holiday to honor the two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

"The governor has always supported the holiday, but he does not want administration officials keynoting a Confederate event. Passions are so strong on the issue that this is not the message he wants to send," press secretary Ellen Qualls said.

Qualls said Warner has asked his scheduler to try to arrange a meeting with Fred D. Taylor, president of the Heritage Preservation Association of Virginia, and Henry Kidd, division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Both Taylor and Kidd said they would be glad to meet with the governor but said they felt the governor should apologize for insulting the holiday. "He says he wants diversity, but he excludes Confederate ancestors," Kidd said.

Qualls said no one asked for the proclamation. Warner decided to issue it after being requested to issue a proclamation designating Monday as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Virginia. That, too, is a state holiday.

The proclamation recognizes the native-born Lee and Jackson as "brilliant leaders, educators and military strategists."

Warner will address a Martin Luther King Jr. mass meeting sponsored by the city of Richmond at the Arthur Ashe Center Monday at 10 a.m.

The holidays were joined until two years ago, when separate holidays were created.

Taylor and Kidd joined about 100 Confederate sympathizers around Lee's statue in the Old House of Delegates chamber yesterday to observe the holiday.

Del. R. Lee Ware Jr., R-Powhatan, a history teacher and Massachusetts native who may be related to Lee, said Lee and Jackson should be viewed in the context of the times in which they lived rather than through the prism of the present.

Ware said Lee and Jackson would have appreciated the efforts of King to promote racial harmony.

The South was not perfect, he said, but to Lee and Jackson, "the hard-won sovereignty of the state of Virginia, her agrarian way of life and her Christian tone were superior to any alternatives known to them," particularly "the individualism, secularism and materialism then espoused by the folks known as 'Yankees'"

Del. James K. O'Brien Jr., R-Fairfax, spoke as a graduate of West Point Military Academy, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary. Jackson and Lee were West Point alumni.

Col. J.E.B. Stuart IV, a Richmond stockbroker and a great-grandson of the Confederate cavalry officer, presided over the ceremony.

Two floors up in the Capitol, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP announced its legislative agenda for the 2002 General Assembly session. King Salim Khalfani, executive director, said the civil rights organization will push for an end to racial profiling, a moratorium on the death penalty, a strong law against cross-burning and restoring felons' voting rights.

Khalfani said he had no problem with the Lee-Jackson Day ceremony but was pleased that Hager had canceled his speaking engagement.

Both the House of Delegates and Senate adjourned yesterday in honor of Lee and Jackson.

In another Confederate-related issue, the Legislative Black Caucus continues to grapple with how to resolve the Virginia flag salute imbroglio.

Del. Mary T. Christian, D-Hampton, the caucus chairwoman, said the caucus hopes to offer a rewritten salute next week.

Last week, the House decided to open each day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag and the Salute to the Flag of Virginia.

The salute is a little known tribute that the General Assembly adopted in 1954. It is also the official flag salute of the Virginia division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and some members object to that tie.

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