H.K. Edgerton is an odd-duck in the world of heritage-not-hate Neo-Confederates, a loose confederacy that roughly includes the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the League of the South, and, yes, the Council of Conservative Citizens, a “white pride” group that is mentioned in what is allegedly Mother Emanuel shooter Dylann Roof’s manifesto. Simply put, Edgerton is black, and these days he is known in Neo-Confederate circles as a champion of the Confederate flag.

I first met Edgerton back in 2000. He was standing alongside a group of folks from the Council of Conservative Citizens, all white, a few of them cute girls that is if you could wipe the perpetual snarl off their faces, in downtown Greenville. The occasion? The decision to take down the Confederate battle flag from atop the Statehouse dome. For reasons that certainly don’t need to be expressed, I decided to interview Edgerton and later wrote a cover story for the now-defunct Creative Loafing-Greenville, where I was the editor from 2000-2004. 

In that article, I wrote about Edgerton’s transformation from a NAACP leader in Asheville, N.C. and his fall which was spurred by a photo taken of him with two white priders, Kirk Lyons and Neill Payne. The gentlemen were photographed holding folded white napkins to their heads, a la Klan hoods. (Lyons and Payne are co-founders of the Southern Legal Resource Center, a group that fights for Confederate heritage issues. Along with South Carolina’s Ron Wilson, who is now serving time in federal prison for operating a Ponzi scheme, Lyons is also one of the primary leaders in the Sons of Confederate Veterans who transformed the historical society into what appears to be more of an activist group.)

A few years after our first encounter, I met up with Edgerton as he was walking along Highway 123 toward Clemson as he was on his weeks’ long march from the Carolinas to Texas. He was dressed in wooly Confederate gray and brandishing a Rebel flag, something he did reportedly the entire way there. His brother was photographing H.K.’s epic journey.

I lost track of him over the years, but every once in a while he’d pop back up, generally in an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (a civil rights organization) about Neo-Confederates, specifically Lyons, or an interview with one-time Charleston radio host and Johnny Reb lover Radio Free Rocky D. It’s worth mentioning Lyons, Payne, and Edgerton remain friends to this day.

Over the years, Edgerton has transformed himself into a Lost Cause celebrity (you can order a T-shirt of him), an authority on black Confederate soldiers — yes, they actually were some, although there is some debate about whether all of them served willingly and in what sort of capacity  — and a proselytizer in the curious belief that blacks and white got along right swell like here in what H.K. calls “The Southland” during the antebellum years.

While you could dismiss Edgerton’s beliefs in the regional kinship between blacks and whites as a form of Song of the South madness, this week’s events indicate that at least here in Charleston those two groups, at least on occasion, have a somewhat familial relationship. Although we do not attend the same churches and our schools are still horribly segregated, we often live side by side and interact with each other on a daily basis, although there’s no need to take any of this as far as Edgerton does. Institutional racism is still very much a part of our society, even here in the Holy City, the one blue spot in a blood red state.

Yesterday, I had the chance to talk to Edgerton about the Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from display on Statehouse grounds. H.K. had rather sharp words for the governor. “She needs to be impeached,” he says.

Unlike many others in this state and across the nation, Edgerton does not believe that Confederate flag and what it represents played any role in Dylann Roof’s horrific actions. “It’s got nothing to do with it,” he says.

But if a culture that supports Confederate causes isn’t to blame, then what is. Edgerton has an answer that is both surprising and not. “The NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center …”

And Haley isn’t the only politician who has earned Edgerton’s wrath; there’s our favorite ham biscuit-lovin’ U.S. Senator and presidential candidate. “Lindsey Graham ….”

As for the concerted rush to bring down the flag by state and local leaders, Edgerton says, “There is not sanity in what is going on in South Carolina.”

“Black folks said, We forgive you,” he adds. “Al Sharpton has blood on his hands.”

When asked about his opinion of Roof, Edgerton responded, “That boy is innocent until proven guilty … I feel sorry for this young man.”

Edgerton already has at least one possible plan in place in case the General Assembly votes to take down the flag. “I may come to South Carolin and chain myself to the monument.”

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