Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

So Much for “Boot Elrod” and the Lexington Boycott

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 18, 2013

Not sure how I missed this, but Lexington Mayor Mimi Elrod was re-elected to another four-year term last November with a vigorous 63% of the vote. That was Elrod’s second electoral win against her opponent, Council Member Mary Harvey-Halseth, whom she defeated for mayor in 2008, with 59%. (Harvey-Halseth’s term on council is staggered with the mayor’s, so she retains her council seat.) Harvey-Halseth voted against the ordinance barring non-governmental flags on city-owned poles back in 2011, but I don’t get the impression that the dispute over the Confederate flag played much of a role in the 2012 mayoral race. There seems to be much more focus on efforts to revitalize the downtown area of Lexington.

BootElrod“Boot Elrod” has been a watchword of the Flaggers practically since the flag ordinance was passed in 2011; even then, a change in the composition of the city government offered the best hope for reversing the ordinance. A court challenge has always been a long shot, as Susan Hathaway acknowledged at the time. But I’ve never been convinced that the ordinance has been a particularly important issue for more than a handful of Lexingtonians, and the results of November’s city election there seem to bear that out.

After the election, Billy Bearden complained that the “Boot Elrod Campaign so gloriously began was allowed to die an inglorious death by the people in and around Lexington that should have kept it alive.” My guess is that “the people in and around Lexington,” as a whole, aren’t nearly so torqued about Confederate flags as Bearden, Hathaway and others think they ought to be. The make-believe Confederates should know better; the News-Gazette noted at the time of the ordinance vote that opposition to it came overwhelmingly from people — like Bearden, Hathaway, and peripatetic Confederate beard H. K. Edgerton — who don’t actually live in Lexington:


Speakers at Thursday’s Council meeting were evenly divided on the issue. Almost all of the speakers who were city of Lexington residents, such as Beth Knapp, spoke in favor of the new policy. Knapp emphasized the city was not banning the display of any type of flag on private property or attempting to prevent people from carrying Confederate flags in parades. Noting that Confederate flags are offensive to many, she said, “We should focus on honoring men, not causes.”
Rockbridge County residents were more evenly divided on the issue. W.B. “Doc” Wilmore of Collierstown said the ordinance was really about “political correctness and ignorance and arrogance. It is about the appeasement of a few at the expense of many.”
Speakers who traveled from out of the area unanimously opposed the ordinance.


One factor in Elrod’s re-election may be that things are looking up economically in Lexington, as in most other parts of the country. Unemployment remains high compared to the state and national averages, at 9.8% in December 2012, but still lower than at the time of the ordinance in September 2011 (11.3%), and well below its Great Recession peak of 14.0% in June 2010.

By contrast, the Flaggers have been working against economic recovery in Lexington, in a way that undoubtedly caught the attention of many residents. Along with the “Boot Elrod” campaign, Hathaway, Bearden, and folks like local SCV leader Brandon Dorsey have been pushing a campaign to boycott Lexington businesses, in the hopes of pressuring them to get the city council to reverse its position. That effort, too, appears to have accomplished little or nothing. The City of Lexington recently released its financial report for FY 2012, covering the period from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, ten months of which fell after the adoption of the flag ordinance and during the period of the boycott. In the three categories of city revenue that directly reflect business activity and tourism — sales taxes, restaurant taxes and hotel/motel taxes — revenues all increased:

From the City of Lexington’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2011, p. 32:




And from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2012, p. 32:




And in summary:




Last month I contacted Lexington’s Director of Finance, who confirmed that the rates in these categories did not change from FY2011 to FY2012, meaning that these numbers reflect an actual increase in relevant business activity. These are strong numbers — substantially stronger than current national GDP, which is dragging along at an anemic 2% annual growth rate. Business in Lexington is looking up. To be sure, not every business in Lexington is doing well — some businesses will go bust, even in boom years — but overall, local business activity in Lexington is trending up, not down.

The Flaggers aren’t likely to give up their boycott or the campaign to “Boot Elrod” anytime soon, and that’s their prerogative. But it’s hard to see any substantive effect of either initiative, any more than they’ve restored the flags to the exterior of the Pelham Chapel. They’ll continue to stir the pot — “Are YOU mad enough yet? RISE UP, VIRGINIA!”, etc., etc. — and keep the faith.

After all, November 2016 is just around the corner!


UPDATE, March 20: I almost forgot — a big thank-you goes out to Billy Bearden, who was the first to point me to the city’s annual financial report as a source of economic data for Lexington. Couldn’t have done this post without you, my friend!




22 Responses

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  1. Al Mackey said, on March 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Maybe after she retires they’ll claim victory in their campaign to “boot” her. 🙂

  2. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on March 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Bless your heart, Josephine, you keep forgetting you’re not allowed to comment here until you explain your earlier remarks.

    [Edited by moderator]

  3. Dave Tatum said, on March 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Andy, the Flaggers have not “yet” had the flags restored to the Pelham Chapel, but I don’t see em giving up.

    One thing that is overlooked is the conversations that happen in front of the VMFA, I’ve been in a few, not as many as I would like but still I have been there. When people are angry at the Flaggers and freely express their anger they are met with politeness and facts. That in its self is a positive thing. Getting the word out !

    My Great Grand father was a patient at the Veterans Home, and I’m sure he prayed at the Chapel, so I guess I do have an interest in what happens there. I would like to see the flags returned !

    I don’t always agree with some of the methods used at the VMFA, but I do support the ultimate goal,
    Return the Flags – Restore the Honor !

    • Andy Hall said, on March 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Dave. You wrote:

      The Flaggers have not “yet” had the flags restored to the Pelham Chapel, but I don’t see em giving up.

      I don’t see them giving up, either. But I do wonder what their “long game” is, since being a general thorn in the side of the VMFA doesn’t seem to have worked after 18 months. Is the idea that, a couple of years from now, when the lease on the chapel rolls around again, the Flaggers’ tactics are going to generate some good-will concession on the part of the museum? I doubt it. Why would the VMFA want to do that?

      My Great Grand father was a patient at the Veterans Home, and I’m sure he prayed at the Chapel, so I guess I do have an interest in what happens there. I would like to see the flags returned!

      Were the flags routinely displayed n the outside of the chapel then? I ask because folks ought to be clear what standard they’re calling for a “restoration” to — the chapel as actual Confederates knew it, or as it was post-1993, decades after the last veteran passed on? Seems to me that’s a huge difference.

      You going to court Friday? Let me know what happens.

  4. Corey Meyer said, on March 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I say let there be a compromise at the chapel…the American flag and the Third National Confederate flag. Since Lost Causers tout the fact that rebel soldiers are considered American soldiers by Congress and the government…so having the American flag on the chapel should not be an issue and having the Third National should soothe the anguish of the Lost Causers.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      A compromise would be good, but I don’t see how the Flaggers, with the vitriol, name-calling, stunts (remember the UDC?) and so on up to this point, can bring themselves to compromise, or why the VMFA would want to.

      The reality is that the VMFA holds the cards, through its stewardship of the chapel. If the Flaggers think that the museum was being unreasonable last time the lease was up for renewal, why to they think it’s going to go better in 2015, after years of that sort of behavior?

  5. Dave Tatum said, on March 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Virginia state law—
    § 15.2-1812. Memorials for war veterans.
    ——- For purposes of this section, “disturb or interfere with” includes removal of, damaging or defacing monuments or memorials, or, in the case of the War Between the States, the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.
    So Corey’s compromise won’t work! But its a better suggestion than the one where he suggested putting the Gay flag at the chapel.
    I heading out the door to work, I will get back to ya to address the questions you posed. Andy !

    • Corey Meyer said, on March 21, 2013 at 8:55 am

      I don’t remember advocating for placing a gay rights flag on the chapel.

      • Dave Tatum said, on March 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        “kindredblood said…
        Stand firm VMFA…you are in the right. Don’t let the Lost Cause Traditionalists push you around or trample on you property rights. So you removed some flags…at least the shrine to R. E. Lee is still there. They should be content with that. If they complain any more I would start displaying Gay & Lesbian art inside the chapel…
        November 14, 2011 at 10:21 PM

        My Mistake, you did not say Flag !

  6. Dave Tatum said, on March 21, 2013 at 7:52 am

    OK – you wrote – “But I do wonder what their “long game” is —- well from what I have been told it’s pretty simple’ continue to flag until the flags are returned.

    Also – “Were the flags routinely displayed n the outside of the chapel then”?
    Well they were flown on site daily when the Veterans were there, maybe not attached directly to the chapel, but at some point in time someone put flags on the Chapel and at another point someone decided to remove them.

    I don’t care if they were attached to the Chapel when JC Tatum was a resident, that’s a moot point.
    Like I said, at some point the flags were attached, and then removed. I would like to see them replaced !
    I don’t need a law or a date to use as an argument, They were there once and I would like to see them returned !

    • Andy Hall said, on March 21, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Thanks for replying, Dave.

      You wrote:

      At some point in time someone put flags on the Chapel. . . .

      That would be 1993 unless I have my timeline wrong, decades after the last veteran passed away.

      and at another point someone decided to remove them.

      Don’t get wishy-washy here, Dave. The Flaggers have invested a great deal in the notion of “restoring” the flags, but they ought to be candid about what they’re being restored to. It sure looks to me like the Flaggers are demanding a restoration of the way they remember things, not the way real Confederate veterans who lived at the site experienced them — sort of like the State House in South Carolina, where the Confederate flag did not fly for nearly a century after the end of the war, until 1961, but folks want it “restored” because that’s the way it was when they were younger.

      They were there once and I would like to see them returned !

      All righty.

      • Dave Tatum said, on March 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

        I can’t post the picture but it’s a picture of Confederate Veterans, many of whom are holding small battle flags.——-

        In their public statements, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts insists that the removal of Confederate Battle Flags from the Confederate Memorial Chapel in Richmond is part of their effort to maintain “historical accuracy” on the grounds of what once was the Robert E Lee Camp Old Soldiers’ Home.

        In this photo, residents of the R. E. Lee Camp Soldiers’ Home, many of them holding Confederate battle flags, assemble during a Confederate reunion in Richmond, Virginia, in 1911.

        It appears that not only was the Confederate Battle Flag the preferred flag of the soldiers themselves, but look closely and you will notice that many of them are waving the flags, even as the camera shutter is operating.

        APPARENTLY, the carrying, and yes, even “waving” of Confederate Battle Flags on the grounds of the Old Soldiers’ Home is not only appropriate and honorable…it is also, in fact, HISTORICALLY ACCURATE!

        Why then, are the Va Flaggers threatened with arrest if they dare step on the grounds of the RE Lee Memorial Park with THAT flag?

        (From FB page Defending the Heritage)

  7. Corey Meyer said, on March 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

    The problem I see with the statute quoted by David is that by flying or removing the flags, the chapel is not being defaced or damaged. If anything the flags are simply an addition to the original the Chapel. And I don’t see how placing the American flag on the building next to the Third Nat. is putting up Union monuments on
    Confederate monuments. That is just hogwash and David knows it.

    • Dave Tatum said, on March 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Well Corey using your logic, the flags that were removed were once part of the Chapel, and once they were considered a part of the Chapel the law would prevent their removal !
      So it seems you agree with the flaggers, way to go !

  8. Billy Bearden said, on March 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    There was a flag holder mounted to the Chapel that predates 1993.
    The holders for the 1993 flags were mounted at the entrance located
    at either side of the portico near the doors. The flag mount was in the center
    front of the portico. It was removed off the structure after dark in November 2011.
    The removal showed it was affixed to the building prior to any application of paint.
    The VMFA has refused all requests of sharing the photos they have of the
    Chapel flying the flag that flew from that mount.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      The specific hardware screwed into the wall doesn’t interest me. I want to know about the regular display of the Confederate flag on the Pelham Chapel when the veterans’ home was in operation. As I said in my response to Dave above, my suspicion is that the Flaggers want to “restore” the Chapel to an appearance they remember, rather than what real Confederate veterans knew.

      • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on March 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        [Deleted by the moderator]

    • Andy Hall said, on March 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Hey, Billy — did Mary Harvey-Halseth campaign actively on the flag question? I can’t see where she did, but you may know otherwise.

      • Billy Bearden said, on March 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm

        Andy my good friend, I cannot say what Miss Harvey Halseth did or didnt do. I doubt she ever went about openly advocating the repeal of the flag ban, nor did I or any Flaggers contact her with campaign ideas. I did note that the newly elected woman on the Council openly spoke of Heritage tourism during her campaign, and she got elected.

        The people in and around Lexington that knew full well of the issues, both prior to Ms Elrod becoming a Councilman, then Mayor, and the 2012 election cycle, sadly decided to sit back and place all thier eggs in the lawsuit basket. I am afraid that as Easter approaches, those eggs are gonna be cracked.

        Had I or any of the Flaggers been living closer, Boot Elrod would’ve resulted in a different outcome 🙂

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