Don E. Siegelman
Governor of Alabama, 1999-2003
Lt. Governor, 1995-1999
Attorney General, 1987-1991
Secretary of State, 1979-1987
The Confederate Flag means different things to different people. It is a symbol and as such is protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately, this flag has hurtful associations and meanings as well as the positive elements of heritage and tradition that some people see when it flies. The right to fly the Confederate flag is not the issue; every individual has that right. But those thoughts which may be expressed by individuals, should never be endorsed by a state government.
Because the Confederate Flag symbolizes hate, white supremacy, lynching, and racism to many Americans, it is not a symbol that should be endorsed by any government or official but rather relegated to battlefields, museums, and private property of individuals. It has no place on any capitol dome or any government property.
I was the first Governor of Alabama to serve without the Confederate flag controversy flying over the dome.
George Wallace had it raised as a symbol of "segregation now and segregation forever" in 1963. With his raising of the Confederate flag, violence against Blacks rose.
Murders, the use of police dogs and water cannons, beatings at the hands of state troopers and bombings and murders at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan followed in Wallace's wake.
When government or our officials give a stamp of approval to symbols of hatred and racism, violence is given a green light in the minds of those so predisposed.
As Lt. Governor, I knew the Confederate Flag would kill any chances of Alabama being viewed as part of the "New South". I presided over the State Senate, appointed all committees, and worked with the Senate leadership to make sure any resolution to put the Confederate Flag back atop of the dome, never came up for a vote.
When I was elected Governor in 1998, I was free of the flag issue. I could pursue out of state and foreign investors. I quickly landed Honda's first overseas automobile manufacturing plant. Then came Toyota, a second Mercedes plant, Hyundai, and a division of Fiat. I worked to expand Boeing and Lockheed Martin, transformed our state port at Mobile, Alabama into a first class facility.
Very little could have been accomplished if the Confederate flag had been flying over the capitol. I had defeated a Republican incumbent, who supported the display of the Confederate flag. For the first time since the Goldwater sweep of the South in 1964, as a "liberal" white Democrat, I won a majority of both White and Black voters.
As a footnote, when I was President of the Student Government at the University of Alabama in 1967-1968, recognizing the song "Dixie" was offensive to many students, I met with my counterpart at Auburn University, and we agreed that we would each pass resolutions to stop the playing of "Dixie" at football games. We did. "Dixie" was laid to rest.
It's time for South Carolina to do the same.
Don E. Siegelman
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