The South–and the Kennedy Brothers–Still Right, Part One of Two
The first time I personally witnessed cowardice at high levels was upon the occasion of the first edition of The South Was Right being introduced into my high-school library.
In 1993 my father and I joined our local Major John Pelham Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Jacksonville, Alabama. It was at a meeting of that camp that I spoke with a man (whose name I cannot recall) who told me he was a past principal of my school. He spoke to me about a new book by a pair of Louisiana twins that was a scholarly and forceful defense of the South and the Confederacy.
The former principal told me he had given the book to my current principal (whose name will be slightly changed in this account to “Fred Flenderson” to protect the guilty) with the condition that it be added to the library to be available to the students. It was to serve as an alternative to the usual politically-correct twaddle to which we were (even then) constantly submitted.
I informed him I was not aware of the book but, given his recommendation, I would check it out and read it. When I went to the library, my extensive search yielded no results. I consulted the librarian. She attempted to look up the book in their records and informed me that no such book was in the library.
I reported back and the clearly annoyed former principal said he would address the issue forthwith.
A few days passed and I decided to pay a visit to our good principal to check on the matter myself. I entered the vestibule of his office and was being welcomed by his secretary when I noticed Flenderson through the glass of his main office. Our eyes locked momentarily before he disappeared from my sight. I explained to the secretary that I had a question about a library book and requested a few moments of his time. She got up and went into his office, only to come back shortly and tell me that Flenderson had abruptly left for an unknown reason through a door that exited to the parking lot. I thanked her and looked through the window behind her to see the principal’s pickup truck leaving the premises.
A few days more passed and I was sitting in the cafeteria when Flenderson appeared in the seat next to me with the thin, little book. I remember seeing the title inside the second national flag of the Confederacy on the front cover. Flenderson went on to assure me he had not forgotten about the book, but simply wanted to read it himself before relinquishing it to our library.
I was a mere lad of sixteen, but I knew even then I was witnessing the first firsthand account (in what would be and remains a long string) of embarrassing, lying obfuscations by people who had played whatever political games were necessary to secure a position of “leadership.” That man had no intention of ever turning that book over to the library. And he certainly had no intention of ever actually reading it.
Nevertheless, the times had not reached the levels of odium comparable to what we are seeing in the third decade of the 21st Century, so the weight of the local SCV and a scrappy rebel teenager brought The South Was Right to the library of Saks High School in Anniston, Alabama, for at least a couple of years. I verified its presence on the shelf or in the hands of fellow students while I was there. I have no doubt its presence disappeared at the hands of Principal Flenderson soon after I threw my cap and tassel into the air of Jack Stewart Field on graduation night.
I was the first to check out the book from the library and I read every word of that first edition in just a few days. It was unlike anything I had ever read before, with the exception of Southern By the Grace of God by Michael Andrew Grissom, which I esteemed so much it remained on the shelf of my bed beside the King James Bible throughout my high-school days.
I had only recently developed a sense of Southern identity when studying about “The War” in history class. I remember my eighth-grade teacher directing a student who had a Confederate battle flag on his t-shirt to turn the shirt inside-out. He countered that the flag was flying over our State capitol building, which I thought was a pretty good argument. All I could have come up with at such a young age was that Elvis was a proud Southerner, and everybody loved Elvis.
I began pouring myself into the history of my homeland and the men who wore the grey. Being a product of the public-school system, I was reluctant at first. Through the curriculum mandated by the central government, I was taught, in a nutshell, that my ancestors were evil, racist traitors who waged war against pious Northerners who were valiantly sacrificing themselves trying to free slaves. It was initially through the books by Grissom and the Kennedys that I learned what a bunch of baloney all that was.