According to AL.com, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has ordered the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the foot of the Confederate memorial on the grounds of the Capitol building.
Charles Dean reports (emphasis added):
Two workers came out of the Capitol building about 8:20 a.m. and with no fanfare quickly and quietly took the flag down. They declined to answer questions.
Moments later Gov. Bentley emerged from the Capitol on his way to an appearance in Hackleburg. Asked if he had ordered the flag taken down, the governor said, “Yes I did.”
Asked his reasons for taking it down and if it included what happened in Charleston last week, the governor said, “Yes, partially this is about that. This is the right thing to do. We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”
The Confederate Memorial Monument was dedicated in 1898; its cornerstone was laid by Jefferson Davis himself in 1886. The bronze figure atop the memorial was sculpted by a NYC artist named Alexander Doyle as a representation of “Patriotism.”
It was vandalized in 2007, after which state officials lamented the “meaningless” destruction of state property, and bemoaned the coming price of the cleanup—the vandalization came after the state historical commission had just laid out a well-utilized $200,000 on the monument’s restoration.
Thus Bentley’s words, bolded above, about the state budget. He’s being practical, as a politician might. But it’s still a monument to the Confederacy—i.e. a vandalism and protest magnet—whether or not the flag’s still flying, and also, three Confederate flags still are.
Via AL.com, the three flags still up at the monument:
They are the First National Confederate Flag, commonly preferred to as the “Stars and Bars;” the second flag is the Second National Confederate Flag, more commonly known as the “Stainless Banner;” and the last flag standing is the Third National Confederate Flag.
Here, via Wikimedia Commons, is the abbreviated view of the completed set (RIP):
This displays of heritage and tradition were made possible because of a provision regarding the monument’s restoration during the turn-of-the-century (this century) tenure of Governor Don Siegelman—who’s famous for being the only man to ever hold all four of the top offices in Alabama government as well as then being charged and imprisoned for corruption, bribery and obstruction. (He’s still serving time.)
And of course, the Confederate flag used to actually fly from the top of the Alabama state capitol—not just appear in varied quadruplicate at the Confederate memorial.
The fight to get the flag down from the capitol was long, difficult, and can be attributed mainly to a Democratic state representative named Alvin Holmes, who’s been in office since 1974 and fighting the flag’s presence for almost as long. From WSFA:
1975: Alvin Holmes filed suit to require the American flag be flown from the highest position. A federal district court said the Flag Code suggests, but does not require, the American flag to be flown from the highest position.
1976: Alvin Holmes filed a suit against Wallace and others to prohibit the flying of the Confederate flag over the Capitol. The federal district court ruled against Holmes.
1988: The NAACP, Alvin Holmes and others filed a lawsuit against Gov. Guy Hunt seeking to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State Capitol grounds. The district court again ruled against Holmes.
Late 1980s-Early 1990s: The Alabama Capitol was flying the U.S., Alabama and Confederate battle flags. All three were taken down due to a massive renovation of the capitol in the early 1990s. Alvin Holmes and other legislators filed a third lawsuit using a different argument than the first two (1976 and 1988). They argued that an Alabama law from 1975 doesn’t allow for the flying of any flag above the Capitol other than the U.S. and Alabama flags.
Jan. 4, 1993: Circuit Judge William Gordon rules in favor of Alvin Holmes. Judge ordered Alabama law allows only the state and national flag be flown over Alabama’s capitol and enjoined the governor from raising the Confederate, or any other flag.
Governor Folsom did not appeal that ruling. But, for old time’s sake, via lindsaybridge at Flickr, here’s a look at the Alabama Capitol in 1971:
Note the flag at the top: it’s not a Confederate flag, mind you, it’s just the Alabama state flag, which just happens—I’m sure by chance—to bear an intriguing resemblance.
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Image via JStephenConn/Flickr