by Locker Room contributor
Agree with him or disagree, but H.K. Edgerton is a living, breathing North Carolina treasure.
And if you?re on Long Shoals Road in Asheville anytime soon, don?t be surprised if you see a black man in a Confederate uniform carrying a Confederate battle flag outside the featureless blue-grey edifice that is Valley Springs Middle School.
That’ll be Edgerton. He is a fifty-ish African-American, a former president of the Asheville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and an ardent campaigner for public restoration of Southern heritage. He plans to picket the school in protest of political correctness and the absence of free speech inside the windowless government building.
Edgerton also is chairman of the board of advisors of the Southern Legal Resource Center in Black Mountain, a somewhat loose coalition of lawyers dedicated to preserving Southern culture and history. Edgerton and the SLRC argue that ?blacks and whites, descendents of slaves and slave owners, share a common culture and history.?
That history, he says, is based on respect, cooperation and even love between the races before, during and after the War of Yankee Aggression against the independent states of the Confederacy.
His efforts to present his case, he says, ?in the face of lies, hostility and hatred,? have caused him to don the uniform and march across the South proudly carrying the ?Southern Cross of St. Andrew.? In 20002-2003, accompanied only by his brother, Terry Lee, Edgerton marched from Asheville to Austin, Texas, meeting people of all races, teaching in schools and churches and preaching the gospel of the old South at every stop along the way.
?I have been greeted with love and affection by blacks and whites alike,? he says. ?I have marched across the Southland of America proudly carrying our flag. Wherever I have gone, the babies (students) I speak to have never heard anything about the South other than the lies of hatred and fear that drive the races apart.?
Edgerton?s ire was raised to fever pitch last week when Valley Springs Middle School principal Tom Keever apparently rescinded a student-issued invitation to speak to 8th graders studying the Civil War.
In a letter to Edgerton, Keever said, ?I regret what appears to be a miscommunication with you and the two students who have approached me to see if you could speak. You are not scheduled to speak to the combined eighth grade classes this Friday, Jan. 28.?
Keever had insisted that Edgerton provide proof of his qualifications to speak on the issue of Southern history and certify that his remarks would be consistent with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.
In a telephone conversation with this writer, Keever added his impression that Edgerton was ?a self-proclaimed expert in Southern culture and history.?
Keever added that ?I don?t know anything about him. He hasn?t called me. We just received letters from a legal organization. We?ve had a student as the intermediary. I am responsible for who speaks to our students and I take that responsibility seriously.?
When told of Keever?s claim that he knew nothing about him, Edgerton said, ?If Mr. Keever hasn?t heard of me, then he needs to go type in my name on the Internet, or read the Asheville Tribune or Citizen-Times.
(The writer typed in H.K. Edgerton and received 32,700 hits from Google and 77,000 from Yahoo!).
Keever also criticized Edgerton?s failure to send him an outline of his talk or a listing of his credentials to speak on the topic. ?I asked him to send me this information and he didn?t,? Keever said. ?I thought this was a reasonable request from our end. In my letters I said for him to call me. He didn?t. It?s a moot point now,? he added. ?The students have moved beyond that (period in their studies).?
Edgerton and the SLRC responded by letter to the school, asking for a copy of the curriculum guidelines in question and a listing of all other speakers who have been forced to provide proof of their qualifications to speak. Keever indicated he did not intend to respond.
Another public affront had been served to the Edgerton family just one week earlier when Asheville?s largest black Baptist church, Hill Street Baptist, locked the doors just 30 minutes prior to the funeral of Edgerton matriarch Anna Bell Edgerton to keep Confederate re-enactors out. The mixed-races Confederate State Funeral was held at the funeral home instead with a near-equally split (but not divided) black-white audience of 300 in attendance. A funeral cortege of mourners processed to the cemetery with a uniformed honor guard for Mrs. Edgerton?s coffin, borne on a horse-drawn wagon.
In arguing the case that there was filial love between the races, Edgerton points to the near-toal lack of slave rebellions during the years 1861-1865, when only women, children and very old men were tending the Southern plantations. He contends this was why Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and made it effective only in the “rebel” states. “Mr. Lincoln wanted to incite the slaves to do something they did not want to do,” he says.
For more information you can reach H.K. at the SLRC in Black Mountain, 828-669-5189.