This week, SCPC received from the West Foundation a memento of the fight to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina State House. July 10 marked the second anniversary of the removal of the flag from the State House grounds.
The flag was raised over the State House in 1962 to commemorate the Civil War centennial. One of our most popular blog posts ever, from July 10, 2015, presented historian John Hammond Moore’s history of the flying of the flag. For even more on the flag’s removal, see our post of June 24, 2015.
The memento we just received is a framed copy of the 1999 petition presented to the state legislature calling for the flag’s removal from the State House dome, where it flew beneath the American and state flags.
John Carl West (1922-2004) served in the US Army during World War II, and as a state senator, Lt. Governor, Governor and US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Known for his intelligence and compassion, in 1999 he helped lead the effort to move the flag, which had become a highly divisive issue. In December 1999, surviving members of the 1962 General Assembly, led by West and Bob McNair, who preceded West as governor, petitioned the General Assembly to remove the flag from the Dome. They argued that the original intent of the Assembly was simply to commemorate the Civil War, that the flag should have come down afterwards, and the fact that it did not was an oversight in the drafting of the legislation. Signers included SCPC donors West, McNair, Charlie Boineau, Don Holland, Ryan Shealy and Nick Zeigler, and SCPC friends Steve Griffith and Crosby Lewis. Showing his humor, West proclaimed them “the has-been brigade.”
The petition was front page news. West declared, “This petition represents a historic event. It is the first time in the history of South Carolina. . . that the former legislative body, after more than a quarter of a century, has petitioned . . . an existing legislative body to correct an oversight or error, remedy a wrong and heal a divisive situation.”
The petition helped generate support for some compromise and in 2000, the flag was moved to a pole mounted on the State House grounds beside the Confederate Soldier Monument. But the sentiment against the flag grew and on July 10, 2015, it was finally removed from the State House grounds to the Confederate Relic Room, completing the process urged by West and his colleagues back in 1999. We are very pleased to have this memento testifying to the leadership of Governors West and McNair.
By Herb Hartsook