H.K. Edgerton, the solitary African-American dressed in the uniform of a Confederate soldier who totes the rebel flag, has become an Asheville fixture over the years, often seen standing atop overpasses on I-240 in full regalia. The former president of the Asheville chapter of the NAACP, he’s better known for his involvement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has chapters in states around the South. So it came as a surprise to read, in the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, that Edgerton had put down his flag.
The story, in the summer edition of the magazine, refers to e-mails circulated among SCV members wherein Edgerton announced he was leaving the “Southern heritage” movement.
The thing is, he’s not giving up the Confederate battle flag or his position as an honorary member of the SCV. According to e-mails to Xpress and messages on Edgerton’s own SouthernHeritage411.com Web site, the whole dustup stems from an argument blown out of proportion by outsiders.
According to Edgerton, in March, he and a member of the Virginia SCV attended a NASCAR race in Georgia, where they distributed Confederacy-themed checkered flags to “protest NASCAR management’s anti-Confederate flag position.”
During that outing, another Southern activist, Elijah Coleman, approached Edgerton, offering to sell him a used car. When Edgerton declined, he says, the discussion descended into argument.
Later, according to the SPLC report, Coleman distributed an e-mail accusing Edgerton of selling out, alleging he was selling the flags and pocketing the money.
“I realized he was now in the heritage fight only for the money,” Coleman purportedly wrote. (Edgerton says he did accept donations at the event, but used the money to cover gas expenses.) The accusation led Edgerton to announce, via an online dispatch, that he was parting with the Confederate movement and shutting down his Web site.
But in a recent e-mail to Xpress, Edgerton accuses the SPLC—a hate-group watchdog organization—of presenting “lies and innuendoes as factual matter so that gullible people will take it for truth.”
In fact, he says, he is planning more public marches and continues to fly the Confederate flag.
The SPLC says it stands by the story.
“He’s full of it,” charges Intelligence Report Editor Mark Potok, who says Edgerton wrote the goodbye missive, even if the activist has now changed his tune. “He had thrown a tantrum and taken his marbles home.”
Nevertheless, Potok seemed unsurprised that Edgerton’s crusade to salute the ante-bellum South continues, adding that the Intelligence Report doesn’t usually doesn’t focus too much on the Asheville native. “He’s an oddity at the fringe of the neo-Confederate movement,” Potok says. “If we had a comics page in our magazine, that’s where we would run this story.”
Meanwhile, Edgerton’s e-mail to the Xpress notes that the online community in which the original messages were posted is a private forum for use by the SCV, and says that those responsible for leaking information about the matter “have been found out and are now facing disciplinary action.”