Sons of Confederate Veterans Succumbs to Extremists After Long Battle
Despite beating back the candidacy of a key white supremacist, America’s leading heritage group succumbs to extremists
By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok
Ron Wilson also appointed Allen Sullivant, who had built his and Lyons' campaign Web sites, to the key position — especially in the current climate — of chief of heritage defense.
Sullivant was best known within the SCV as the founder of a Web site called the Order of White Trash, a gossipy collection of writings about the SCV that strongly sided with Wilson and Lyons in the August elections.
Although Sullivant claimed to the Intelligence Report that he no longer runs the Order of White Trash site (it is currently registered to a false name), it has long carried a downloadable graphics section full of racist caricatures of blacks.
More importantly, Sullivant has run an unofficial SCV E-mail list called Echo since 1996 — the year the then-commander in chief, a moderate named Norman Dassinger, banned discussion of secession from the official SCV Dispatch E-list.
There would be no such bans on the Echo, Sullivant vowed, describing his list as "an uncensored free-speech forum, serving Sons of Confederate Veterans members and the Electronic Confederate Community at large."
And it certainly was — and remains — uncensored. The Report has obtained a series of crudely racist jokes and comments from Echo postings made between March and October.
"Look at the mess and the chaos that they have made of it," one posting says of blacks since the civil rights movement. "Not to mention the wild upsurge of rape, murders, drugs ... dumbing down of schools since apes have no IQs ... not to mention the same apes have played Hell with Confederate symbols, flags, et cetera. Give them an inch and they take and destroy everything ... in their paths."
Another correspondent writes sarcastically of the Confederate battle flag: "A poor little darkie might see it and get shocked back into slavery which would force him to have to gather up three car loads of chimps and pull his stolen pistol to shoot an unarmed man and his wife going out to celebrate the birth of twins."
And a third tells a crude joke that ends with this punch line: "See, by the time you get done shakin' the shit out of a nigger, there's nothin' left but lips and shoes."
In other Echo postings, blacks are "nigs," "darkies" and "pickaninnies."
Asked about the postings, Sullivant hung up on a reporter.
Gags and Pledges
The Intelligence Report sent copies of racist comments from SCV Echo for comment to the entire executive council, its general staff and the media committee. None of these men replied — perhaps because of the national gag order on all SCV members that was passed in Memphis after the earlier adoption of state bans.
The national order was proposed by Leonard "Flagpole" Wilson, who, according to several accounts from those who attended, waved his cane in the air as he hotly advocated its passage, shouting, "The enemy is outside the door!" Explicitly supported by newly elected commander Ron Wilson, it passed easily.
The gag order says that it is SCV "official policy that no member under any circumstance is authorized or permitted to attack a fellow member in any public forum" and "in particular, the generally hostile news media." If any member ignores the order, he will be "subject to disciplinary action" and "officers of the Confederacy are hereby instructed to initiate such procedures."
By November, actions had been brought against Gilbert Jones and at least two other "treasonous" SCV members.
But the ban does not appear to apply to Kirk Lyons.
On Sept. 11, six weeks after the gag order was passed, Lyons' directly engaged the press by issuing an "SLRC PRESS RELEASE" entitled "SLRC AMAZED BY BREATHTAKING IGNORANCE OF NEW ANV [Army of Northern Virginia] COMMANDER." No calls for Lyons' head followed this attack on Charles Hawks, the man who beat Lyons for the ANV post by 17 votes.
While no comment was offered by executive council members about the SCV Echo E-list, one councilman did accidentally forward an E-mail message to the Report that reflected a concern for appearances.
Allen Trapp was writing to fellow councilmen to warn them to avoid letting the public know that a growing number of SCV camps were refusing to pledge allegiance to the American flag: "For years, I have said that not pledging allegiance is a PR nightmare waiting to happen."
Jim Pierce, then the commander of the SCV camp in Morgantown, N.C., and the man who sent out the racist Hawks cartoon, explained his thinking in an E-mail sent to the SCV Dispatch list.
"My great grandmother, grandmother, and mother all refused to recite the pledge out of their undying hatred for the cost to our family from the war of Lincoln, and my mother still will not say the pledge."
'Save the SCV'
An unknown number of men like Chip Pate have left the SCV because of the extremist takeover. But many others have decided to fight back. Walter Hilderman III, a former police captain who lives in Eutawville, S.C., announced this fall that a new group, Save the SCV, was forming to try to rid the group of extremists.
"We must develop a network of members and camps throughout the nation that will publicly condemn the infiltration of the SCV by racists and secessionists, and who will work toward their removal" in 2004 convention voting, Hilderman wrote in a November letter announcing the effort.
"We intend to build a movement within the SCV that will identify the extremists and vote them out of office or obtain their resignations. If they are secessionists, let them join the League of the South. If they think racism is a virtue, let them join the Ku Klux Klan."
Some camps, like the one Pate once served as public information officer in Siler City, N.C., have weighed other kinds of precautions. Pate told the Report that the camp was considering registering as an independent nonprofit recently. The idea is to prevent the camp's assets from defaulting to the national if the camp disbands.
Even some of those who initially supported Kirk Lyons have changed their view as the politics of the new regime became clearer. Tommy Allen, a Presbyterian minister who once wrote the Report to defend Lyons from charges of being a racist, recently said he had been wrong. Now, Allen hopes to create a new kind of heritage organization — one that will include both Confederate and Union descendants.
"Thought you would like to know that I have resigned from the SCV," Allen said in an E-mail to the Intelligence Report following the elections. "This Southern National stuff is the Lost Cause. Like I told a friend earlier today, if the Confederacy had leadership like the SCV has, I would have fought for the Union!"
Despite the defectors and dissension, SCV leaders appear uncowed.
Ron Wilson has been gearing up to take his message to a larger public — schools and churches in particular. As part of an "educational outreach program," the SCV plans to give away books, videos and CDs to schools, libraries, churches and civic clubs to "tell our story about the South's struggle for independence."
Wilson recently formed a new Chaplains Corps with the goal of reaching "conservative church congregations across Dixie with the message of our heritage." Already, some 50 SCV members have been recruited to act as chaplains, under the leadership of John Weaver.
Weaver, recently reappointed as "chaplain-in-chief," caused a stir several years ago with his defense of slavery. Many Africans, he wrote, "blessed the Lord for allowing them to be enslaved and sent to America."
With the in the hands of extremists, messages like this are bound to proliferate as efforts to spread the neo-Confederate gospel pick up speed. Wilson and his confederates are moving quickly, doing their best to transform America's largest heritage organization into an instrument aimed at radically transforming the politics and culture of the New South.
Whether or not they succeed now rests, at least in part, in the hands of the rank and file members of the embattled SCV.