The politically correct denial of Southern history has reached it silliest extreme.
On the side of Stone Mountain is a gigantic relief carving representing Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America; Gen. Robert E. Lee; and Lt. Gen. Thomas Stonewall Jackson.
Originally begun in 1923, the granite monument was completed in 1970 after its designation as Stone Mountain Memorial Park. The Confederate figures tower 400 feet above the park.
The private company that manages the park for the state of Georgia - the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. - seems to believe those carvings are just there to provide a backdrop for money-making laser shows.
The management company is fighting a couple of heritage groups that are asking to hold a Con-federate Memorial Day service at the park on April 26. The Georgia Society of the Military Order of Stars & Bars and the Sons of Confederate Veterans want to hold the event underneath the Davis, Lee and Jackson carvings.
But Herschend, apparently worried that someone at the event might actually commemorate Confederate history, says the groups will have to hide their service in a secluded terrace on the far side of the mountain.
The heritage groups are fighting for a spot on the lawn, led by a local rebel: Martinez resident Woody Highsmith, commander of Augustas Brig. Gen. E. Porter Alexander Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The Confederacy is not politically correct these days, Highsmith says, I guess they dont think it would be conducive to the amusement-park atmosphere.
The Atlanta Constitution portrays the disagreement over the Confederate Memorial Day site part of Herschends balancing act in managing the park. But come on; if there is any event belonging at the park, its Confederate Memorial Day.
Whats more amazing, though, is that the vast majority of people, even here in the South, dont know when Confederate Memorial Day is observed - even though it wasnt so long ago that it was the only Memorial Day.
During our recent office move, I found a stack of yellowed newspaper clippings in an envelope labeled Memorial Day. In those old stories is a fascinating look at how the South, our area included, began to gradually turn away from its Southern heritage.
A 1959 clipping from the Augusta Herald explained that post offices would be closed that year because of federal employees taking off on National Memorial Day, which the story explained isnt celebrated in Georgia.
That began to change in 1961. Another Herald story told of a handful of World War I veterans who initiated Augustas first National Memorial Day ceremony.
One of those veterans was Refo Sikes of North Augusta, an airplane mechanic who entered World War I at age 18. His son, also named Refo, still lives in North Augusta and remembers his dad talking about his Memorial Day efforts.
Memorial Day at the time was considered a Northern holiday, recalls Sikes. But he thought, and I think he was correct, that Memorial Day was for everyone in the country.
Though it wasnt the elder Sikes intent, the interloping observance eventually replaced Confederate Memorial Day, now regarded as little more than a quaint curiosity by some, or by others as a rallying day for rednecks.
Though incredibly ignorant, the latter perception seems to have gained a foothold. How else to explain the lack of Southern hospitality toward heritage groups from a company hired to manage a Confederate memorial?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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