Maurice Bessinger is Still Causing Mischief
Maurice Bessinger (1930-2014) was a well-known South Carolina restaurateur, equally famous for his mustard-based barbecue sauce and infamous for his life-long defense of chattel bondage as having been ordained by God. (“God gave slaves to whites.”) He was an unrepentant segregationist who, even after being forced to open his restaurants to African Americans by the federal courts in the late 1960s, continued to distribute pamphlets defending slavery and generally making black folks as uncomfortable as possible about stopping there. And of course, he put up a big ol’ Confederate Battle Flag outside each restaurant, just to make sure folks got the message. One of the first things his grown children did when they took over the business in the early 2010s was to quickly and quietly remove those flags.
But Bessinger had a few tricks left. In at least a couple of cases, he deeded over to local Confederate Heritage™ groups tiny, tiny plots of land adjacent to his restaurants on which they could put up a marker and flagpole. One of these was in Orangeburg, where the SCV’s Rivers Bridge Camp #842 flies a Battle Flag outside of what had once been one of Bessinger’s restaurants, but is now home to the Edisto River Creamery. (See it on the Orangeburg County tax map here.) The business owner, Tommy Daras, bought the property in 2014 and ever since has been getting complaints about the flag. On Wednesday, there was a confrontation between Daras and members of the Rivers Bridge Camp, who prevented Daras from hauling down the flag himself:
After about an hour stand-off, SCV members left the restaurant and the flag remained up.
Restaurant owner Tommy Daras said he would most likely contact his lawyer and find out how to proceed.
“I want to do the civil thing,” he said. “I don’t want any violence.”
Daras said he and his wife have been receiving complaints and threats about the flag since they purchased the restaurant in 2014. . . .
Daras says after conducting some more research, he realized that he in fact has the title to the deed to the property, not the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“I am clean on doing something,” Daras said.
Buzz Braxton of Rivers Bridge Camp #842 SCV and flag keeper at the site said the site belongs to the SCV. He says tax records prove it. He said the matter will be taken to court.
“This is our property,” Braxton said.
We’ll see what happens, but a quick skim of Orangeburg County tax records suggests that Braxton is correct — the Rivers Bridge Camp has been paying taxes on that tiny plot of land for years, between $10 and $11 annually. While I don’t know what Daras’ deed says, it’s going to be hard for him to argue that he owns property that someone else has been paying the taxes on for at least a decade.
What a mess. Somewhere, I’m sure, Maurice Bessinger is laughing — when he’s not busy looking for some ice water.