Lawyers representing the Sons of the Confederate States Veterans join the conversation about the Confederate flag at the Williamson County Seal.
“We are disappointed that the Williamson County Board of Commissioners has sought permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission to chisel the historic county seal in the courthouse,” said Joey Nolan, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Tennessee Division, adding, that he believes the majority of Williamson County’s residents oppose such an action. “I have directed our attorneys to take legal action to protect the County Seal from destruction.”
Background on the County Seal
Back in September, the County Commission had asked the Tennessee Historical Commission for permission to remove the Confederate flag from the upper left quadrant of the Williamson County Seal, passed in 1968. This was the first official action to remove the District Commission symbol, although many other events preceded the vote.
About seven months ago, when talks about racial justice and Confederate imagery began across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Franklin-based Dustin Koctar launched an online petition to get the flag off the county seal to remove For many residents closer to home.
As of December 30, the petition had more than 11,300 signatures, but the issue was first brought to the county commission’s attention in June when its members received a flood of emails from citizens both against the symbol on county property and in defense of the historical representation of the symbol.
After several weeks of debates and discussions in the county and in the community, the county commission set up a task force in mid-July to examine whether there was a “significant need” to change the county seal.
After receiving feedback from 1,225 residents on the matter (52% supported the removal of the flag and 43% wanted to keep the status quo) and considered various implications of a change, the nine-member task force unanimously recommended removing the flag from the seal.
The County Commission voted 16-7 to accept the Task Force’s recommendation to send a motion to the Tennessee Historical Commission for approval.
The issue has yet to be heard by the state commission, but must receive a two-thirds majority for the county to take action.
Sons of Confederate Veterans, to add to the debate
On December 29, the Tennessee Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans announced that their attorneys would file as an interested party with the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Nolan, who heads the department, said he had “received hundreds of calls and emails from angry residents” about the county’s decision to request the flag be removed from the seal. He said he believes many Williamson County residents would rather vote on the subject of the seal than let the commission decide.
“The mayor has told our representatives that there is no legal way to hold a referendum, but we question that opinion and want the attorney general to review it,” said Nolan. “Mayor (Rogers) Anderson has put together a task force that is sure to give him the result he wants.”
Gene Andrews, a member of the organization’s camp in Brentwood, noted that Williamson County has a rich American Civil War history and much of the county’s tourism is tied to its historic sites and elements.
“It seems like the county is trying to alienate one of its greatest travelers, and this erasure of history just isn’t the message we need to send,” he said.
Jason Boshers, the commander in chief of the national organization Sons of Confederate Veterans and a resident of Middle Tennessee, said he would like the county commission to reconsider its vote.
“If the county makes a filing with the (Tennessee Historical Commission), we have a national duty to defend the seal,” he said.