“Six Year Flag Dispute in Ringgold to be Heard in Court”

Update: I’ve included a table of contents for this series below.


(H/T) to David Tatum for bringing this to my attention.  For those of you that do not know, back in the early 2000s community leaders renovated the historic depot in Ringgold, Georgia. Part of these renovations included a memorial to the men/boys who left the depot to fight in the Civil War. Additionally, the memorial commemorates the Battle of Ringgold Gap. Adding to the luster, renovators constructed two flags in front of the depot: 1, a U.S. flag in remembrance of Gen. Joseph Hooker and the Union soldiers; and 2, a Confederate flag in reverence to Patrick Cleburne and his Confederates.

Photo taken before all renovations were completed

Controversy soon followed with citizens of the black community in Ringgold (an extreme minority) asking the city council to lower the flag. In 2005 (not 2008 as the article says), the Ringgold City Council reached a compromise on a 3-2 vote. The city lowered the Confederate Battle Flag, replacing it with the Hardee Corps Flag, famously flown by Patrick Cleburne. I can remember not too long after that, speaking to a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at the local 1890s Jamboree. He told me then that the SCV planned on bringing a lawsuit against the city. Well….better late than never.

Now in 2014, Tom Poteet filed a suit against the city on behalf of the SCV. He states that “the city was wrong in removing a piece of history, and that  it is discrediting a number of soldiers who fought for the country [CSA].” I have never met Mr. Poteet as far as I know. There is a chance I might have, but I am horrible with names; I digress. The case is set to be heard by Judge Kristina Cook Graham on July 25. Lt Cmdr. Ronald Eslinger of the GA SCV claims that the group will be well represented at the trial, bringing in hundreds of members for support. Effectively, this will turn my small town into a circus of ignorance.

In the coming days, I will provide a bit of a background to this flag issue and the history it revolves around. I will also inject my personal opinions on this small town flag controversy. I think this will be a fun break to cut up the monotony of thesis writing. Plus, it gives me a chance to visit home for a bit.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Ol’ Ringgold Depot
  2. Renovating the Ringgold Depot
  3. Update on the Ringgold Depot Flag Dispute

 

 

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27 thoughts on ““Six Year Flag Dispute in Ringgold to be Heard in Court”

  1. This is a story that I hadn’t heard about. I do have a couple of questions, though. First, it sounds like the Cleburne flag is *more* specific to local history and that site than a generic Confederate flag, so why the compulsion to replace it? Second, what’s the SCV’s standing in this to begin with? It doesn’t sound like they were direct parties in the in original dispute, and then waited *six years* to file a lawsuit? I’m wondering how the plaintiffs got past a preliminary hearing.

      1. It appears that in 2008, Kirk Lyons sent a threat to the city council. He gave them 10 days to return the flag or face legal consequences….6 years later the flag is not up.

        1. Most jurisdictions have a statute of limitations on civil cases like this. Regardless of a prospective plaintiff’s standing to sue, they generally don’t have an unlimited window to do so. Maybe there’s something recent that justifies a lawsuit now, but if they’re only getting around to seeking redress of something that happened in 2005 (or 2008), they should be shown the door.

          1. In recent articles Andy, I learned that the SCV filed the suit in 2008. It has been dragging on since then. I have no idea why it is lasting so long, but it is.

          2. Yea, I get bored with format pretty easily. This was a new one WordPress put up and I really thought it was aesthetically pleasing. I just wish I could turn the side bar off when you open a post up.

    1. Good questions. Hopefully I can answer them fully in the next couple of days.

      You probably haven’t heard about it because the flag came down as quickly as it went up. Before the renovations, no flags flew in front of the depot.
      To answer your question, the Cleburne Flag does have a more specific history there in regards to the battle. No men from Ringgold (aside from individual by chance accounts) actually fought in the Battle of Ringgold Gap. It was fought by men under Cleburne’s command. Additionally, the depot was mangled during the battle and before. However, there are stones on the memorial which recognize the men who left Ringgold by train to fight for the Confederacy. They all fought in the Army of Northern Virginia. Additionally, James Longstreet’s command arrived at Catoosa Station (a few miles outside of town), and marched through Ringgold on their way to Chickamauga. The SCV argues that displaying the Cleburne Flag, though honorable, ignores the service of Ringgold natives and other soldiers that moved through the town. I have a problem with that argument, though I believe it sincere, which I will explain with more depth in future posts.

      The SCV was involved, I will show articles from the time of the original dispute where they were involved heavily. The also raised money heavily for the renovations. I still have one of the prints they sold somewhere.

      I have no idea about the legal history regarding this. I am hoping more comes out about it in the next couple of days. It isn’t something widely publicized, I’d imagine they went through the channels quietly.

  2. K. Whiteside

    Rob,

    Hope all is well. I enjoy reading your posts and look forward to hearing your commentary on the lawsuit. Best of luck finishing the thesis.

  3. Jimmy Dick

    I am not a lawyer, but if this property was restored using city money, grants, and or donations, and is currently owned by said municipality, then the people available to sue the city will be limited. Unless the monies involved in the restoration had strings attached to them via conditions, which almost all organizations have provisions to avoid that, that would limit the people who could sue the city. No financial damages are being incurred apparently so that limits the pool as well.

    This sounds like a big whine from heritage types about the symbolism of the flag. The courtroom could be a great venue though for exposing the heritage types and their lack of historical knowledge. One can demonstrate the racism associated with the ANV flag and challenge any attempts by the SCV to bring incorrect history into the case. Basically, facts matter in a courtroom.

      1. Jimmy Dick

        The thing is though that there are no injuries in this case. It is a matter of a group wanting a different flag flown than currently is. There are no criminal actions involved. It is kind of like the flags being flown in hidden locations off of I-95. Legally they have the right to fly any flag within the limits of the laws. So does the organization running this site. I don’t see how the SCV has legal grounds for a case.

          1. Jimmy Dick

            The background of such state laws is questionable. Why do these laws exist? Are they there to prevent changes made to public monuments so as to fix an one interpretation to them which cannot be changed regardless of new evidence proving otherwise? In essence isn’t Georgia’s law nothing more than an attempt to enshrine the Lost Cause as official state propaganda?

          2. I think the argument about why such laws exist is a post in its own right. I cannot say I disagree with such laws. Protection of monuments is a positive things, whether one agrees or disagrees with said monument. However, I don’t consider replica flags to be monuments, like the SCV does.

    1. True. However in the particular case, the city council’s decision to replace the CBF with the Hardee Corps flag had more to do with public pressure. I will get into this more in future posts when I have time.

  4. Lisa Poteet

    I know Tom Poteet. He is my dad and is a very good man just fighting to save his heritage. City of Ringgold spent thousands of dollars they could have used for good cause such as school trying to keep a flag down. Which I feel is a waste of taxpayers money. I have been beside him in this fight all these years and that flag isnt hurting anyone. It is a part of history. The depot should be more historic anyways instead of a “lil opry” and “haunted house” which is very disrespectful to all the fallen troops having people dress up like hanging dead soldiers and such. I used to back the city of Ringgold but it’s all a bunch of yellow belly spineless jellyfish and I am ashamed the way they handled this. Props to my dad for trying to keep history alive!!!!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Lisa. I’m not sure how you know what the city of Ringgold spent in regards to the lawsuit, but bear in mind that they did not pursue the lawsuit; your father did. He wasted tax payer money over the flag issue only to drop the case later on.

      The flag is not hurting anyone now because it isn’t flying. Whether or not it actually hurt anyone while flying is debatable.

      The problem with the depot becoming a purely historical establishment (museum, etc.) is that it cost money to do so. Renting the depot out for the opry, the haunted depot, etc. creates a revenue stream that helps maintain the depot. Sadly, money does not often flow in for historical projects. It may not be the best way to remember the past of Ringgold Confederates and Unionists, but it keeps the depot alive which is the important thing.

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