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A 'March Through Dixie' Has Onlookers a Bit Bewildered

An African American "born-again Confederate," H.K. Edgerton is marching across the south, raising money for neo-Confederate organizations.

Bright and early on Oct. 14, a 55-year-old man in a Confederate Army uniform strode down Biltmore Avenue in Asheville, N.C., battle flag on his shoulder, headed for the interstate. Passing drivers honked and waved. "God bless you, Mr. Edgerton!" one well-wisher hollered.

Since the late '90s, H.K. Edgerton has earned local notoriety by staging one-man protests of Confederate "heritage violations," such as attempts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools.

Now Edgerton has embarked on a 1,385-mile "March Through Dixie," designed to carry his idiosyncratic message of "heritage not hate" to folks in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and finally Texas — and also raise some serious bucks for the cause.

He'll be noticed, partly because the man in gray is black. Edgerton's ancestors were slaves. He stepped down just four years ago from chairing his local NAACP chapter. Now he's on the board of Black Mountain's Southern Legal Resource Center, run by white supremacist attorney Kirk Lyons, who inspired Edgerton to become what Lyons calls a "born-again Confederate."

Since then, Edgerton has become a darling of the white-supremacist wing of the "heritage" movement. His flag-waving protests have drawn renewed attention to a highly unorthodox version of history in which Africans were brought to America (in Edgerton's own words) as a gift from "God in his infinite wisdom," and "the only one who cared about the African was the white man in the South."

His favorite white man in the South stands to benefit handsomely from the march. The bulk of the $2 million Edgerton hopes to raise will go to Lyons' "heritage" law firm; the rest goes to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the traditionally moderate "heritage" group that recently took a turn toward blatant racism (see A War Within). A Web site set up to publicize the march urges supporters to pledge $1 a mile; for an extra $50, they can purchase one of the three flags Edgerton will carry on each daily route.