The soul-searching about the Confederate flag’s proper place extended well beyond South Carolina’s Statehouse Tuesday, as The Citadel agreed to move its Confederate Naval Jack from its chapel to another site.
Citadel President John Rosa said the move, supported by a 9-3 vote of the school’s Board of Visitors, will require the Legislature to amend the state’s Heritage Act.
“The Board of Visitors and I believe now is the right time to move the flag from a place to worship to an appropriate location,” he said in a statement, calling the move “a mode to all of the principled leadership we seek to instill” and a move to promote unity on campus.
The flag has become a focal point in the wake of the fatal shooting of nine black inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church last week. The suspect, Dylann Roof, has indicated he acted for racial reasons and has been photographed waiving the Confederate flag and burning the American one.
Rosa said this has been a difficult week for Charleston, the state and The Citadel, noting one of the nine killed was a Citadel Graduate College alumnus and six school employees lost family members. “The Emanuel AME Church is our neighbor and we consider it a part of our extended Citadel family,” he said. “We will continue to support the church and its members in their time of need.”
A year ago, Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby tried to scuttle funding for The Citadel because a Confederate flag few inside its Summerall Chapel, which he said was a “total affront” to blacks.
“I really feel saddened by this,” he said at the time. “It’s just still as if they are trying to preserve the Confederacy.”
Darby said Tuesday he was “happy and elated” about the Board of Visitors’ decision to remove the flag from the chapel. “My purpose for this to happen was not out of hatred or malice but to win friendship and understanding of how the flag was actually hurting a segment of our community,” Darby said. “I love The Citadel. I’ve procured two degrees from the institution.”
The Naval Jack is one of 57 flags hanging inside Summerall Chapel, one of the campus’ most prominent landmarks. It was given to then Citadel President Charles P. Summerall in 1939 by the Cadet Yacht Club. Summerall accepted it as a “tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause,” the school said in a statement last year.
Darby and Councilman Teddie Pryor’s concern about the flag helped deadlock council on whether to contribute to last year’s Medal of Honor bowl, but a S.C. Attorney General’s opinion said that the flag is legally protected.
The Legislature passed the state’s Heritage Act in 2000 to protect established monuments and memorials on public property that represent American wars or events of Native American and African-American significance. It was part of a compromise reached to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome and move it to the Confederate monument on the Statehouse grounds.
The school’s statement Tuesday said the board supports moving the flag to “an appropriate location” but did not mention any possible sites where that might be.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.