In September of last year, the Williamson County Board of Commissioners voted to remove the Confederate flag from the county seal. Earlier this month, the Sons of Confederate Veterans sent a press release opposing the removal of the Confederate flag from the Williamson County flag.
“Americans are tired of the ‘cancel culture,’ and we are disappointed that the Williamson County Board of Commissioners has asked the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) for permission to chisel away the historic county seal at the courthouse,” said Joey Nolan, Commander of the Tennessee Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) in a recent press release.
“The citizens of Williamson County are opposed to the destruction of our history, so I have instructed our attorneys to begin the legal actions to defend the county seal from destruction.” This action will have SCV attorneys filing as an interested party with the Tennessee Historical Commission to block the removal of the Confederate flag from the upper left quadrant of the seal.
Williamson County Seal
The Williamson County seal was adopted in 1968. According to the Williamson County website, “the upper left section depicts a flag and cannon, which symbolizes the rich history in the county. The upper right quadrant shows a schoolhouse illustrating the importance of education. The lower left portrays a bible in front of a church window, which represents religion. The lower right segment shows farm animals denoting agriculture.”
Jason Boshers, second in charge of the national organization of the SCV, weighed in from a larger perspective. “The Williamson County Seal is as unique as the county itself, and to change something so special is baffling. What is the full financial cost? Actions such as this cause more questions than answers, and the SCV wants to investigate and bring to light exactly what is going on. We hope that the county commission will reconsider this action, because the public deserves a voice. But if the county moves forward with a filing to the THC, then we will be obligated, nationally, to defend the seal.”
Seal Study Task Force
Last year, Williamson, Inc., Williamson County’s Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, was charged with creating and leading a taskforce to evaluate the official Williamson County seal, and the possibility of revision as a number of citizens were concerned about the change. Through their website, the Chamber received more than 800 responses to questions about changing the seal.
The nine-member task force looked into the reasons for changing the upper left quadrant containing the Confederate flag, and what exactly should be done about the seal. The report cites the changing public opinion concerning the Confederate flag, and how use of it has had detrimental economic impact on other Southern cities. The report cites Jackson, Mississippi’s loss of significant convention dollars due to their use of the Confederate symbol on their state flag. The task force fears the same could potentially happen in Williamson County if the flag is not removed.
In early September, the Williamson County Board of Commissioners agreed to accept the recommendation of the task force to remove the Confederate flag from the county seal.
On January 1, a notification was sent out to the press concerning SCV actions. As of January 6, the Tennessee Historical Commission had received no correspondence from the SCV.
Role of the Tennessee Historical Commission
“[W]e have received a waiver petition from Williamson County and have scheduled the first hearing for our regular commission meeting in February,” said Susan McClamroch, Historic Preservation Specialist, Tennessee Heritage Protection Act and Outreach. “The meeting notice, agenda, and public participation information will be posted on the THC website in advance of the meeting.”
The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act was created to ensure that “no memorial regarding a historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure, or historic organization that is, or is located on, public property, may be removed, renamed, relocated, altered, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed or altered.” However, the public entity “exercising control of a memorial may petition the commission for a waiver…A public entity shall petition the commission for a waiver prior to undertaking any action or transaction…that could foreseeably violate the restrictions imposed…”
During the process, any interested parties must be notified of the filing of the petition, and those parties can file documentation related to the petition for the commission to study.
If there are no opposing parties, and the THC agrees with the petitioner’s report, then the process takes about 60 days. If the SCV does file paperwork with the THC in opposition to the Williamson County petition to change the county seal, then the process will be drawn out, and there will be a hearing before the Commission to listen to both sides of the argument. There must be a 2/3 vote in favor of the petition for the waiver to be granted.
If any party is aggrieved of the final decision by the THC, then the process goes to chancery court.
About the Sons of Confederate Veterans
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a genealogical, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1896. It is composed of descendants of Confederate soldiers, those who were either killed in action, died in prison, honorably discharged, or served until the war’s end.