Councilman to Citadel: Remove that Confederate flag

Summerall Chapel

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A Confederate Naval Jack hanging in The Citadel's Summerall Chapel is coming under fire from a Charleston County Councilman.

The school's attorneys said the state's Heritage Act protects the old flag.

"When Gen. Summerall accepted the flag, he thought it was a tribute to the valor and courage of young Americans," said Cardon Crawford, director of government affairs at the Citadel.

But, County Councilman Henry Darby wanted the school to take it down.

"It was brought to my attention by constituents upset about it," Darby said. "It's a very divisive symbol that's being supported by tax dollars."

Darby met with officials and asked the flag to be removed. When officials said they could not take down the flag, he said he would recommend council not approve $975,000 in accommodations tax funding for the school.

The flag has a long history at the military college, Citadel officials said. It was presented to then-President Gen. Charles Summerall by the Cadet Yacht Club in 1939 and reportedly accepted as "a tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause."

The chapel that bears Summerall's name was a brand new building on campus at the time, and it was Summerall who wrote to dignitaries across the country asking for flags to hang in the new chapel, the school said in a release.

In the letter sent across the country and reported in The Citadel's student newspaper, Summerall called the building a "shrine, not only of religion but of patriotism."

The idea for the flags even came from the student body, the school reports. A group of civil engineering students told the president that acoustics in the chapel would improve if flags or banners hung in the hall.

And so it hung in the chapel for 60 years amid a collection of 57 other flags.

In 2000, the state Legislature passed the Heritage Act to protect monuments and memorials on public property that represent wars or notable moments in the country's history.

"We don't have a right to ask folks or an institution to break the law. So we need some clarification," Councilman Elliot Summey said.

Two state senators have written to the S.C. Attorney General's office asking for an opinion of whether the flag is protected under the Heritage Act. If so, county officials said it would be illegal for the Citadel to remove it.

Speakers voiced their concerns at the council budget meeting Tuesday.

"I'm a combat veteran. We get good officers from the Citadel. my concern is we're going to have good African American could-be officers not want to go to the Citadel because of this flag flying," one speaker said.

"It still represents the history and those who fought in that war, even on the losing side, fought honorably and bravely," another speaker said.

At the meeting, Charleston County Council approved a motion to allocate the $975,000, but to wait for the Attorney General's decision before paying out the funds.

"We thought it in the best interest of the County and Citadel to compromise," Darby said.

If the Attorney General does not believe the flag is protected, members would revisit a vote on the funding, Summey said.

County Council also approved a resolution asking the Citadel to evaluate whether it could move the flag in to a museum.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off