Sons of Confederate Veterans Back in Extremist Hands, Many Leave Group
The Sons of Confederate Veterans back in extremist hands
By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok
That wasn't all. Now that moderate voting power on the GEC had been undermined — technically, Sweeney hadn't suspended GEC members but instead had eliminated their ex officio positions in the SCV constitution — Sweeney led a move that same day to eject Hodges as SCV lieutenant commander. Sweeney replaced Hodges with an ally, Chris Sullivan, editor of neo-Confederate Southern Partisan.
Also stripped of their elected posts were key moderates including Thomas Tarry Beasley, commander of the Army of Tennessee (one of the SCV's three geographic divisions), Beasley deputy John French, and Beau Cantrell, commander of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Beasley and Cantrell lost their posts on the GEC as a result, leaving only staunch Sweeneyites on the governing board.
New elections to these posts are to be held at the SCV national convention this July in Nashville. Already, several hate group members have said they will run.
Sweeney's purged GEC also voted to negotiate a formal break with the MOSB. It removed Louisiana leader Ed Cailleteau and Beau Cantrell, whose GEC membership had just been stripped, as co-chairs of the July convention. At the same time, the GEC donated $10,000 in SCV funds to Lyons' law firm, the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC). The SLRC is tied tightly to the SCV radicals — a tie illustrated by the fact that Ron Wilson's daughter, Allison Schaum, has worked for SLRC for years. And Lyons has known Sweeney since the 1990s, when he helped him fight the removal of Confederate plaques from the Texas Supreme Court.
Tempers flared frequently during the day. Toward the end, ex-GEC member Beau Cantrell made a profane hand gesture after being taunted by Jim Pierce, a key SCV radical who has circulated racist caricatures of blacks and has taken lately to signing his E-mails "Uncle Remus." Another SCV member asked a deputy sheriff to arrest Cantrell, and he was taken in. He was later released without charges.
The events of April 23 left moderates throughout the SCV furious, and key leaders denounced what they saw as Sweeney's devious tactics. "In the Missouri division," state commander John Christensen wrote in an e-mail addressed to Sweeney, "we believe we can disagree on an issue without being vile. ... We believe that with free speech and assembly, discussion affords protection against the spread of noxious doctrine. ... The personal vendettas, purges, recriminations and rancor sown by your administration are not good for any organization and may become the seeds of destruction for our beloved Sons of Confederate Veterans."
The battle within the SCV has already cost the organization — which recently had some 36,000 members — "several thousand members," according to Faggert's affidavit. Many have started new groups, including several "Robert E. Lee societies" in North Carolina, that are meant to be non-racist history clubs. In April, a new group called the United Sons of Confederate Veterans also was chartered by Robert Murphree in Mississippi. In the weeks that followed, it appeared that John French — one of those stripped of their elected SCV posts — was taking a leadership role.
French had a warning for those who remain behind, saying in a farewell message that they "will awaken one morning to [find] nothing left of the SCV. All assets will be gone and the once proud organization left to rot." French signed his e-mail, "Mississippi Commander, United Sons of Confederate Veterans."