Confederate Group Questions Direction ; White-Supremacist Influences Feared

Source: Richmond Times – Dispatch
Publication date: 2002-08-02
Arrival time: 2002-08-04
http://– BROKEN URL -/pages/newsreal/Story.nsp?story_id=31925399

Jack Stinson spent 40 years of his life defending his Southern heritage as a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Now, he’s considering a strategic retreat. He doesn’t want to wave his Confederate battle flag any more.

Stinson is one of many in the 30,000-member group who fear that a faction with white-supremacist leanings is trying to take over.

They breathed a mild sigh of relief last night as a member of that faction narrowly lost a bid for the top leadership post, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Texas-born lawyer Kirk Lyons, who has made a career of “promoting Southern heritage,” lost an election to Charles T. Hawks, of Raleigh, N.C., by a 325-308 vote. The election came toward the end of the Sons of Confederate Veterans convention in Memphis, Tenn.

(Henry Kidd, a Chesterfield County resident and former Virginia Division commander of the group, was elected executive councilman of the Army of Northern Virginia.)

Stinson, who also lives in Chesterfield, said Lyons’ strong support made Stinson fearful for the future of an organization he has held close to his heart.

“This has never been a political organization, not a racist organization,” he said. “It was formed in Richmond in 1896 to make sure that the Confederate veterans are remembered.”

Lyons vehemently denies being a member of a white-supremacist group. He did not return phone calls made to his hotel room in Memphis.

The election was close enough, however, for some observers to suggest that the 106-year-old organization is deeply divided.

“Within the Sons of Confederate Veterans, there have always been some more die-hard than others,” said Dr. Charles F. Bryan Jr., president of the Virginia Historical Society.

On his Web site and in published reports, Lyons, a father of five, denies allegations of racism.

In a March 16 posting online, Lyons declared in capital letters, “I AM NOT NOW AND HAVE NEVER BEEN A MEMBER OF THE KLAN OR ANY OTHER EXTREMIST GROUP.”

In an affidavit dated April 4, he says that even though he was married by Christian Identity Minister Richard G. Butler, founder of the Aryan Nation, to the former Brenna Tate, who grew up in the church, he was never a member of Butler’s church.

In his law practice, Lyons has defended such clients as Louis Beam, former grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan.

Closer to home, Lyons is lending a hand to Richmond area DuPont employees and retirees who are fighting a company policy that prohibits showing the Confederate battle flag on plant property.

Lyons is an attorney with the Southern Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit group based in Black Mountain, N.C. He told The Times- Dispatch in May that the DuPont policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against employees of Confederate descent based on their religion, race and national origin.

Lyons’ leadership has caused a growing number of Sons of Confederate Veterans members to consider forming their own heritage group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., began to monitor hate activity in 1981. Today, the center’s Intelligence Project tracks the activities of more than 600 racist and neo-Nazi groups.

For more than a year, the group has watched and written about the developments within the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It has singled out a number of people who have aligned themselves with white- rights leaders.

“This element has the potential to tear apart the SCV, to literally destroy it,” said Mark Potok, spokesman for the center.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 5, 2002.
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