The further east you go in Texas, the deeper the drawl, the more catfish and sweet tea on the supper table, and the more honored the Confederate dead. As if to prove the stereotype, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are now nearing completion on a monument to their ancestors just off I-10, just this side of the Sabine and the Louisiana border.
Situated at the corner of I-10 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, “The Confederate Memorial of the Wind” will feature a walkway lined by the Confederate battle flag and those of several dozen (the count varies in every article) Texas regiments leading up to a circular monument composed of 13 columns honoring each of the Confederate states.
Around the time the project got underway two years ago, Granvel Block, an Orange resident and the SCV’s Texas statewide commander, rejected the idea, often espoused by the NAACP, that Confederate symbols are hateful relics of white supremacy and slavery.
Block said the group wants to preserve history. He said some people, white and black, do not like the Confederate battle flag design because they don’t understand the history. “So many things (about the Confederacy) have been taught wrong or with a poor skew,” he said. As examples, he said the Civil War was not fought over slavery and that slaves were owned in the north, not exclusively in the south. He said individual state governments were sovereign and that “our states were invaded by northern troops.”
In an editorial, the Beaumont Enterprise called the project “divisive,” “offensive,” and “the last thing Southeast Texas needs,” one that with its prominent position next the area’s primary conduit to the outside world, could sully the reputation of the entire region. (Your support will enable passengers in over 55,000 cars per day to see the Confederate flag flying proudly in the Texas breeze, reads an SCV appeal.)
“Anyway you look at it, this is a bad idea,” the editorial continued. “Maybe if enough people in Southeast Texas make this point, the proponents will reconsider. Maybe they will realize that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.”
The editorial also stated that “nobody else” in Orange wanted the memorial, but that in a susbsequent poll of Enterprise readers, fully 77 percent were in favor. According to Block, polls of Orange Leader readers and listeners to Orange’s KOGT radio were also overwhelmingly pro-monument.
The SCV purchased the plot for $9,000 several years ago. (Block has said the low price was his prime motivator, not to “stir the pot” by placing the monument near MLK Dr.) Donations and the sale of commemorative plaques and inscriptions have funded the $50,000 project, according to SCV officials.
Elsewhere, the SCV Texas chapter is in a higher profile battle protracted war over its beloved battle flag, Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans now before the United States Supreme Court, where they are challenging the State of Texas’s rejection to sell vanity SCV license plates bearing the organization’s logo and the Confederate battle flag. The SCV argues that the ban is a violation of free speech while the State of Texas maintains that it has the right to approve or deny what goes on government-issued license plates, as it might imply endorsement of the message. (Personally, I wish the state would apply that logic toward banning the sale of license plates touting such Texas-hating institutions as the universities of Oklahoma and Arkansas, but no such luck.)
It seems the same principle would apply here. The SCV owns the land and took no tax money.
Area politicos know there’s little they can do to fight the monument, especially now that it is nearing completion. All Orange City Council could do was pass a non-binding resolution against the project. Orange City attorney Jack Smith said he didn’t like the memorial either. “I think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “But they own the property, and the First Amendment warrants them that right.”
(Flyer: Courtesy Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans.)