Local News

Confederate Flag License Plate Issue Moving Through Courts

Posted September 23, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— The Confederate flag. To some it represents part of our national heritage. To others, it is an offensive symbol of racism and slavery. It has been the center of much controversy. Now the flag could be a part of some state license plates.

But not if some state leaders have their way.

Under North Carolina law, a nationally recognized civic group can get specialty tags for its members here. The Sons of Confederate Veterans organization wants to do just that but some are questioning whether the organizationisa nationally recognized civic group.

It is a question that is now working its way up through the court system.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles had planned to accept a judge's ruling that it issue special license plates with an emblem depicting the Confederate battle flag, but NC Attorney General Mike Easley says he will appeal, arguing that the Sons of Confederate Veterans doesn't qualify for a specialty tag.

Carl Barrington of Fayetteville is proud that his great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy. Captain Adam Barrington was captured during the battle of Fort Fisher and imprisoned for several months until the Civil War ended. Barrington says he's unhappy with the government's interference.

Barrington says he should be allowed to display his pride in his ancestor and history.

But the flag raises emotions among some African-Americans. Ronnie Graham of Fayetteville says he thinks the issuance of such license plates will cause trouble.

Veronica Davis says she is open to the rights of others to have the plates.

During the appeals process courts will focus on legal issues -- not the emotional ones. If the specialty tag in question survives the court challenge, it will only be available to members of the organization. In order to be a member, you have to prove that an ancestor fought with the Confederacy.

Photographer:Mike Joyner