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|Established||July 1, 1896|
|Founded at||Richmond, Virginia|
|Type||501(c)(3), charitable organization|
|Purpose||Patriotic, historical, educational, fraternal, benevolent, non-political, non-racial and non-sectarian|
|Paul C. Gramling, Jr.|
|Douglas W. Nash, Jr.|
|General Executive Council|
|United Sons of Confederate Veterans|
The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is an American non-profit and charitable organization of male descendants of Confederate veterans headquartered at the Elm Springs in Columbia, Tennessee. It is mostly known for erecting and maintaining American Civil War memorials and graves, observing Confederate Memorial Day, and encouraging Southern historical study. More recently, activists have placed new emphasis on the controversial right to display Confederate symbols in public. The organization was founded on July 1, 1896, at the City Auditorium (present-day VCU Cary Street Gym) in Richmond, Virginia, by R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans.
The objects and purpose of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is "to encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, to aid and support all members, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern soldier."
Male descendants of those who served in the Confederate armed forces, or one of the States thereof, to the end of the war, died in prison or while in actual service, were killed in battle, or were honorably retired or discharged are eligible for membership. Membership can be obtained through either lineal or collateral family lines and kinship to a veteran must be documented genealogically. The minimum age for full membership is 12 years, but there is no minimum for Cadet membership.
Forty delegates from 24 camps and societies from the various Southern states were called by the R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans (also known as United Confederate Veterans), of Richmond, Virginia, to meet on June 30 and July 1, 1896, at the City Auditorium (present-day VCU Cary Street Gym), for the purpose of forming a ?national organization, adopting a constitution similar in every respect to that governing the United Confederate Veterans, and permanently organized under the name United Sons of Confederate Veterans? (USCV). The preamble to the United Sons of Confederate Veterans Constitution read in partTo encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Memorial Day, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern soldier?. Its aims, objects, and purposes were ?not to create or foster, in any manner, any feeling against the North, but to hand down to posterity the story of the glory of the men who wore the gray?.Hopkins, Walter Lee, ed. (1926). Year Book and Minutes of the Thirty-First Annual Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the City of Birmingham, Ala., May 18-21, 1926. Richmond, Va.: Dudley Printing Co. pp. 102-105. LCCN 2005204063. OCLC 11733530 – via Internet Archive. On July 1, the delegates elected Mr. J. E. B. Stuart, of Newport News, Virginia, son of the famous cavalry leader, Commander-in-Chief of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans.
In the 1990s, disagreements over the purpose of the organization emerged within the Sons of Confederate Veterans. At issue was an alleged shift in the Sons of Confederate Veterans's mission from "maintaining gravestones, erecting monuments and studying Civil War history" to more issue-centric concerns. The Sons of Confederate Veterans's new concerns included "fight[ing] for the right to display Confederate symbols everywhere from schools to statehouses". The more "activist" members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans gained electoral support and were increasingly elected to its leadership positions. Members of the more traditionalist camp alleged that the League of the South had influenced their organization's new direction. One ally of the activist wing claimed that thousands of Sons of Confederate Veterans members are also League of the South members. News reports state that the activists advocate "picketing, aggressive lobbying, issue campaigning and lawsuits" in favor of what they term "heritage defense" to prevent "heritage violations". The Sons of Confederate Veterans defines those as "any attack upon our Confederate Heritage, or the flags, monuments, and symbols which represent it".
In 2002, Sons of Confederate Veterans dissidents formed a new organization, Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SSCV), composed of members and former members of SCV. According to Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans co-founder Walter Charles Hilderman, "about a hundred or so individuals and groups identified themselves on the Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans web site as supporting Save the SCV" not long after the group was founded, though the current membership numbers for the Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans are not available. Boyd Cathey reported in the Southern Mercury that most of the dissension had ended by 2003, and the majority of the members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans agreed with the heritage preservation activities espoused by the new Sons of Confederate Veterans leadership. One of the main figures in that new Sons of Confederate Veterans leadership, South Carolina politician and investment advisor Ron Wilson, served as Commander-in-Chief from 2002 to 2004. In 2012, he was sentenced to prison for running a Ponzi scheme as part of his investment business; ironically, among those he defrauded were members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
In early 2005, the Sons of Confederate Veterans General Executive Council sued to expel Commander-in-Chief Dennis Sweeney from office. The court initially granted the council temporary control of the organization, but its final decision returned power to Sweeney. Thirteen of the 25 council members were expelled from the council shortly after Sweeney regained control. Nine of the council members expelled were former Commanders-in-Chief, a status that heretofore had come with a life membership on the council. In February, Cathey wrote in the Southern Mercury that most of the Sons of Confederate Veterans's members had united against the War on Southern Culture. By the Sons of Confederate Veterans's summer 2005 convention, activists firmly controlled the council. They severed much of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' long-standing relationship with the more traditionalist Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB). The Military Order of the Stars and Bars, founded in 1938, had been closely involved with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, sharing its headquarters since 1992 and co-publishing Southern Mercury. The Military Order of the Stars and Bars Commander General, Daniel Jones, citing "the continuing political turmoil within the SCV", moved the Military Order of the Stars and Bars out of the shared quarters, ended the joint magazine publishing enterprise, and separated the two organizations' finances. In 2006, for the first time, the two organizations held separate conventions.
In 2011, the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, launched a campaign to honor Confederate Lieutenant-General Nathan B. Forrest with a specialty license plate. The same year, the organization awarded Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio its "Law and Order" award. In 2013, the State of Texas denied a request for a Confederate Battle Flag specialty license plate, a decision later upheld in State court. That state court decision was later overturned in Federal court, and the matter was ultimately heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, which held that Texas was allowed to deny the request for a specialty license plate featuring the group's logo. In 2014, the State of Georgia approved a battle flag specialty license plate.
The Virginia General Assembly had approved a specialty license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1999, but lawmakers forbade the group from displaying the Confederate insignia. The organization sued for the right to display the Confederate Battle Flag on the licence plate, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually upheld the organization's First Amendment rights. Specialty plates containing a small Confederate Battle Flag had been offered in Virginia ever since a Federal judge issued a 2001 injunction ruling that banning them would be discriminating against the Sons of Confederate Veterans and limiting their First Amendment right to free speech. In a highly controversial move, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, announced that the Commonwealth intended to phase out the state-sponsored specialty license plate six days after a racially charged shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina ignited protests against the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and other Confederate symbols. More than 1,600 Virginians had the license plates displaying the confederate flag on their vehicles, and the Sons of Confederate veterans challenged the Governor's authority to recall the licence plates, citing the 2001 injunction, and in a letter addressed to Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb and forwarded to the governor, Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander Tracy Clary wrote "I am aware of no order from the 4th Circuit vacating our right to receive our plates from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and on behalf of ALL the citizens of the Commonwealth I insist that you follow the rule of Law." But in August 2015 the Federal judge dissolved the 2001 injunction, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case. Despite the ruling, hundreds of members of the Sons of Confedertate Veterans who had the specialty plates refused to remove them from their vehicles and exchange them for new plates despite the fact that the specialty plates displaying the Confederate insignia were no longer valid after October 4, 2015 and it is a class 2 misdemeanor to drive with a cancelled licence plate in Virginia.
The Jefferson Davis Highway marker in Vancouver was removed from its prominent location in the city in the late 1990s, to the outcry from the local Northwest Chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans. They succeeded in having the granite marker stone placed outside the Clark County Historical Museum and a petition for its inclusion on the county's historical register was secured in 2002. Vancouver city officials continued to pressure for the removal of the stone from any public property so in 2007, the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans purchased land outside of nearby Ridgefield. They placed the marker stone facing busy Interstate 5 with large Confederate flags surrounding it on prominent display. This brought outcries but little could be done by either the nearby town of Ridgefield or the county, as it was located on private property; the prominent location and events in other parts of the nation still make this park the local focus of strong emotions, especially in the aftermath of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in August 2017. The vandalism of the stones on August 17, 2017 brought concern for the park managed by SVC, one marker was covered in black tar or paint and the other was covered in red. In October 2017, the city of Ridgefield formally asked the county historical society to remove the marker from the register and the vote was unanimous to do so, 6-0.
The organization took a more active approach after both the election of President Donald Trump in 2017 and moves by some municipalities to remove Confederate monuments and flags from public places because of their racist symbolism and historical connection to white supremacy movements. The organization began installing large Confederate battle "mega flags" on private property overlooking major highways, a project they called "Flags Across the Carolinas". In January 2018 the North Carolina chapter vowed to install one flag in every county. Anti-racist activists, such as Roland Stanton, criticized the project: Stanton, president of the Durham branch of the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the Confederate flag: "is a symbol of oppression, genocide and slavery." Stanton described the project as "abominable and shameful" while acknowledging that the mega flag project activities were protected by the First Amendment.
In 1997, a Sons of Confederate Veterans motorcycle organization was formed by Maryland attorney Reuben Hamby. According to the group's official history, the "SCV Mechanized Cavalry" are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who ride motorcycles. Like the parent group, their by-laws forbid racism and the purpose is the preservation of the history of the Civil War, honoring their ancestors who took part.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans also sponsors the Bonnie Blue Society for authors of southern literature dealing with the veterans of the Confederate States of America. Thus, the Bonnie Blue Society is a recognition and award for persons who have perpetuated the memory of the Confederate soldier or sailor in literary form. Accepted members of the literary society have researched, written and published a book or article on the Confederacy for the general public. A copy of the book or article will be sent to the permanent collection of the Major General William David McCain Library at the general headquarters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The subject matter of the written items presented to the Bonnie Blue Society should be written according to the heritage goals of the Sons of Confederate Veterans by being neither anti-Confederate nor racist. The society uses a version of the Confederacy's Bonnie Blue Flag as their official membership insignia. This banner was an early, although unofficial, flag of the Confederate States, consisting of a single white star on a dark blue field.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans has a longstanding friendly relationship with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has referred to the Sons of Confederate Veterans as "our Confederate cousins," and has conducted a number of joint meetings and joint resolutions with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has also attended the Sons of Confederate Veterans annual reunion on numerous occasions, including in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2005. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War cooperates with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in preserving American Civil War graves, monuments, and markers.
The General Headquarters, Sons of Confederate Veterans, operates the National Confederate Museum at the Elm Springs in Columbia, Tennessee, and the Nathan Bedford Forrest Boyhood Home in Chapel Hill.
Notable members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have included:
Another granite marker proclaiming the road's designation as the Jefferson Davis Highway was erected at the time in Vancouver, Wash., at the highway's southern terminus. It was quietly removed by city officials four years ago and now rests in a cemetery shed there, but publicity over the bill has brought its mothballing to light and stirred a contentious debate there about whether it should be restored.