Contratulations to Phillip White and the Stephen Mallory Camp 1315, Sons of Confederate Veterans, upon the passage of the heritage act. It was solely their effort; it is solely to their credit.
Pensacola's heritage act unique in U.S.
by Connie Ward
(This article appeared in the July 9, 2000 issue of The Florida Sun)
The removal of the Confederate battle flag from three city-owned displays in Pensacola five months ago has resulted in the passage of a heritage act that provides legal and governmental protection to historical resources in the city.
On June 22, the Pensacola City Council passed by a 7-2 vote a historical resources policy that may be unique in the U.S. at the local government level.
"We don't know of anything like it at the city or county level anywhere else in the country," said Phillip White, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that presented the policy to city officials.
Dubbed the "heritage act," the policy was proposed to the city council in late February and forwarded to the city manager for action.
Subsequently, members of the SCV met with city staff to craft a workable version of the policy to return to the council for a vote.
The major points of the policy state that (1) all changes to any historical resource within the City of Pensacola must be formally voted on and approved by a majority of the city council and (2) requests to make any change to an historical resource within the City of Pensacola can have no formal action taken by city council for at least 30 days. The action also states that public meetings may be held on any such request.
Calling the passage of the policy a victory, White sees it as a first step in the right direction and said his group is pleased.
As originally written, the policy would protect items of Confederate heritage within the city, such as the monument in Lee Square and streets named for Confederate heroes. The policy was expanded to include all historical resources owned by the city or located on city property.
"What this does," said White, "is that it takes the authority for making decisions about city historical resources from an unelected city manager and gives it only to officials elected by the people."
The new policy will have no effect on the removal of the Confederate battle flag from three city displays. That issue is now in the hands of a 4-person citizen panel appointed by City Manager Tom Bonfield. The panel's task is to review historical documentation that will determine the which Confederate flags are historically accurate in Pensacola.
Appointees to the panel are U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier, Rev. Matt Currin, rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Dr. Judy Bense of the University of West Florida and Dr. Lornetta Epps of the African American Heritage Society.
Interested parties have been invited by the city to submit historical documents to the panel for review.
Controversy over displays of Confederate heritage have sprung up across the South in recent months. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People started the ball rolling January 1 with a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the Confederate battle flag was removed from the state capitol dome.
In early June, the S.C. general assembly voted to remove the flag to a Confederate memorial located on the statehouse grounds effective July 1. The NAACP has refused to end their boycott, saying the new location is still a position of "sovereignty" and too visible to the public.
Also in June, Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush had state officials remove two Confederate plaques from the Texas Supreme Court building, which was built with funds from a Confederate widow's pension fund.
Numerous similar "heritage violations," as they are called by the SCV and other Southern heritage groups, are prompting White and the local SCV camp to present information about Pensacola's historical resources policy at a national SCV convention later this summer.