Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Epperson's Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument

Commissioner Ken Epperson and Lady Justice
Caddo Commission member Ken Epperson has a guest column in The Shreveport Times today - as of this writing it isn't on the website that I can find, but it is in the print edition.

You may recall that Mr. Epperson is attempting to have the Confederate Monument removed that stands in front of the courthouse on land given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903.  I attended the Caddo Commission committee meeting when this was discussed and wrote about it here.  You can watch the video of that meeting here.  If you just want to skip to Mr. Epperson's wandering, profanity laced tirade at the end, it starts at about 1:20 in the video.

In today's column, Mr. Epperson still contends that the monument is located on Caddo Parish Courthouse property, ignoring the 1903 donation by the Caddo Parish Police Jury in which the land was given to the UDC.  He writes:
"This should settle the issue, the Confederate monument is placed illegally on Caddo Parish's property and should be removed immediately by the owners. I am not looking to suppress history only to put it in it's proper place."
He contends that the debate about the monument so far has been "lots of rhetoric, most of which is not factual, but just emotional and misleading comments by the proponents of keeping the monument in place."

Only two people spoke to move the monument at the Committee meeting, beside Mr. Epperson.  Two dozen spoke to keep it.

The bulk of his article is the text of a title search done in 2002 which actually found no deed whatsoever on the property.  Apparently Caddo Parish doesn't even own it.

Historian Gary Joiner noted at the Caddo Commission committee meeting that any attempt to move the monument would likely be tied up in courts for years as ownership of the land is debated and it would open "a can of worms."  He suggests if anyone owns the land it would be the heirs of Indian interpreter Larkin Edwards who was given large chunks of land by the Caddo Indians.

In related news, Mr. Epperson had his portrait removed from the wall of the courthouse, stating that its presence there indicates that he agrees with everything that goes on there.  He wants his picture and name replaced with that of Lady Justice, a request which was honored this week. Before and after pictures can be seen here:
Ken Epperson’s is serving his 20th year as Commissioner in Caddo Parish. This morning his photo was removed from the Caddo Parish Courthouse, at his request. Commissioner Epperson says, “My picture up there now represents that I agree with everything that goes on on that particular ground and I do not.” Epperson gave an ultimatum before having his picture replaced with Lady Justice, asking for the confederate monument outside of the courthouse to be removed or remove his photo from inside the courthouse. Officials chose the latter and removed Epperson’s photo this morning. 
The Caddo Parish Commission Long Range Special Projects Committee will form a sub-committee at a later date to debate the monument issue.

Meanwhile, Mr. Epperson will remain on the Caddo Commmission, apparently now representing the voice of justice.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Report from the Caddo Parish Commission Committee Meeting on the Confederate Monument in Which Ken Epperson Blasts "Jake-Leg Bloggers"

The Caddo Parish Commission Special Projects Committee met this afternoon to discuss the issue of removing the Confederate monument that sits on the north side of the Caddo Parish courthouse.

 Proposed Ordinance No. 5587 put forth by Commissioner Ken Epperson intends to provide a $300,000 appropriation to remove the Confederate monument and replace it with a monument honoring the USS Golet.  That there is already a memorial to the USS Golet at the American Legion Post 14 on Cross Lake is apparently of no concern.

The monument stands on a plat of land donated by the Caddo Parish Police Jury to the United Daughters of the Confederacy for use in perpetuity back in 1903. The land was never officially deeded to them, likely because back in those days people did business on a handshake and your good word.

The monument was constructed with a $1000 donation by the Police Jury and funds raised by the UDC.

The issue of moving the monument has been raised before (at least two of those times by Epperson), and always the legal issues over who owns the land opens "a can of worms" as it was referred to today.  No doubt if it ever comes to pass that the monument be moved, it will be tied up in the courts for years and cost thousands of dollars, the beneficiary of which will only be the lawyers.

The meeting room was packed this afternoon with numerous interested citizens who wanted to share their thoughts with the Commission. Almost twenty-five people walked up to the podium to share their thoughts and only two of those supported Epperson's proposal.

Esteemed local attorney and historian Art Carmody was the first to address the Committee and noted several legal defects in the proposal and affirmed that in his opinion, the property on which the monument stands belongs to the UDC.  He pointed out that the proposal as written does not specify what would happen to the monument, whether it would be moved, dismantled, or fall at the hands of a wrecking ball.

The speakers that followed all reiterated the same idea: you can't erase or sanitize history and that to allow removal of this monument opens a slippery slope for the future.  Where does it end?

Notable comments were given by Retired Army Maj. Ron Chatelain who is recognized as the most decorated living war veteran in the State of Louisiana. Ron is a personal friend of mine and is one of the kindest, most gentle men I've ever known.  He thanked the military veterans on the Committee for their service and he pointed out that all races fought for the South during the Civil War.  With emotion quivering in his voice, he also cited the depiction of the muse Clio on the statue to represent the sacrifices and work of women at home.  Chatelain suggested that Shreveport would be recognized as a more progressive city by leaving the monument where it is as a sign that as a community we can unify and work together.

Lane Callaway of the Shreveport Historic Preservation Commission made the point that if the monument is moved it would lose its listing on the National Register.  Part of its historic significance is the site upon which it sits -- Shreveport was the last place that the Confederate flag flew over a public building after the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction.  The site itself is therefore historic.  Local professor, author, and professional historian Gary Joiner affirmed this.

Former Shreveport Times writer and military historian John Andrew Prime also noted that Reconstruction began here and pointed out that Union monuments in the north are also under attack.

Benjamin Arnold suggested that balance is the answer.  He suggested that if the Commission wants to create balance they should build a monument on the other side of the courthouse which celebrates civil rights heroes or other black heroes. He proposed citizen contributions for this project with matching funds by the Commission which would make the community more invested in the project.  "Our nation was founded on compromise," he said, and suggested that we need to find a way to do that.

Several speakers called for those who are intent on inciting racial division in our city to remove themselves from office.

Only two people spoke in favor of moving the monument: attorney Henry Walker (who in a previous meeting called the statue just a bunch of concrete) suggested that we dismantle the statue, removing the four busts and placing them in Greenwood Cemetery. It will be "a place of prominence," he said. Oh, and the female figure too, he said, referring to Clio. It was not without notice that Mr. Walker received no applause at the end of his comments.

The other speaker in favor of removal was community activist Artis Cash who insisted, "that monument represents traitors to United States!"  He said that "for people to come here with their melodious voices and talk about how great this was is just wrong!"  He rambled on for his three minutes and said we should "honor some real heroes" in its place.

At the conclusion of his speech, Mr. Cash turned to the crowd and said, "Now y'all clap for ME now."  Nobody did, and a few offered "Boo" in return, prompting him to call them "unchristian."  Childish.

Mr. Cash's speech inflamed SCV member John Long who spoke after him and was furious that Cash called Confederate soldiers "traitors."  "My family members weren't traitors!"  he passionately insisted.  "If you want to talk about traitors, let's talk about Abraham Lincoln," and then went on to quote the Emancipation Proclamation at length noting that Lincoln failed to free slaves where he had the power to.

The high emotion prompted one audience member who had not intended to speak to approach the podium after all.  Andrew Stevenson suggested that the statue should be treated as a tourist site and that we have much bigger problems to deal with such as the steadily climbing murder rate and street violence. "Reverends need to go to their congregations and tell them to quit killing each other," and
Ken Epperson
suggested that the Ten Commandments should be at the courthouse and that we need to "bring God back" into our community, an observation which earned him much applause.

After the public input session, Committee members had 7 minutes to express their thoughts and most it seemed were opposed to moving the monument citing concerns about the cost, other more important issues, and a need for compromise.  Many cited the need for unity rather than division.  Matthew Linn suggested that the vacant top floor of the courthouse be used as a civil rights museum.

Things got interesting when Mr. Epperson had his say.  In a profanity laced tirade, he blasted "jake-leg bloggers" for blowing the issue up and making it all about race, which was "Bullcrap" he said repeatedly.  In a grammatical mess of English he insisted, "Hell, I never said nothing about race." Then he called for members of each military branch to raise their hands. He called next for the Daughters of the Confederacy, then the United Daughters of the Confederacy to raise their hands, apparently not aware that its the same group.  Then he called for the members of Chapter 237 UDC to raise their hands, and the same people put up their hands.

Epperson called for various SCV members to raise their hands as well and then he recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  Following that bizarre turn, Epperson then read the military Oath of Enlistment although he left out the "so help me God" phrase which he said wasn't on his copy because his was the "official version."

When Epperson's time ran out, he asked for an extension then complained that the three additional minutes given him was not enough.  In his additional three minutes Epperson talked about the merit of a USS Golet monument, again apparently not satisfied with the existing one at the American Legion post.

In the end, the Committee elected to table the motion for now and to form a subcommittee of community leaders and historians to discuss, share ideas, and present suggestions to the Commission at a later date.

Although he does not represent my district, as a Shreveport resident, I'm embarrassed for Mr. Epperson's behavior today. Between his profanity laced tirade, apparent attempt at intimidation by calling out groups, and general bully-ish behavior, and then Artis Cash attacking the crowd and accusing them of not being Christians, it's clear our level of government has reached a new low.

Thank goodness for the level heads in that room: Commissioner Chavez was gracious, calm, level-headed and sensible.

Personally, I don't know what the motivation behind Epperson's desire to get rid of the monument are.  Most people today addressed the issue of race although he insists that isn't it.  He said the brouhaha over the monuments in NOLA have nothing to do with it either. I find it hard to believe that he has such a burning desire to memorialize the Golet though.  This "jake-legged blogger" just isn't buying it.

KSLA News coverage and video.

Monday, June 6, 2016

D-Day 2016: Remembering the Kelley Brothers

On this anniversary of D-Day, I'm running a version of one of my columns at DaTechGuy; here in Shreveport, one family lost three sons in less than two years in World War II.  During that war many families across our nation lost more than one son, but as far as I know, the Kelley family is the only family in Shreveport that lost three sons-- one of them in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.  

Like all of America, Shreveport watched the unfolding events at Pearl Harbor in 1941 with horror.  

In February 1942, William G. Kelley (his friends and family called him “Bob”) felt the call to service and enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  He had graduated from the local high school, attended Louisiana College, and was attending seminary.  He was ordained at the First Baptist Church in Shreveport by Dr. M. E. Dodd.  When he enlisted, Bob was preaching at the Evangeline Mission, a new church in town that he helped build with the assistance of the Queensborough Baptist Church.

William "Bob" Kelley
Bob Kelley went to officers’ school and became a bombardier; he went with the Eighth Air Force to England.  Lt. Kelley had been overseas only six weeks when his plane crashed near Fontainebleau, France and claimed his life on November 10, 1944.  He was twenty-four years old.

The Evangeline Mission, where Bob was a preacher, was renamed for him as Kelley Memorial Baptist Church.

A second Kelley son, Bose, Jr., died in the D-Day invasion.  Al McIntosh, writing for the Rock County Star Herald, wrote on June 8, 1944, after learning that the expected invasion of France had finally taken place:
“This is no time for any premature rejoicing or cockiness because the coming weeks are going to bring grim news.  This struggle is far from over – it has only started – and if anyone thinks that a gain of ten miles means that the next three hundred are going to go as fast or easy he is only an ostrich.”
He was correct:  the grim news was only beginning.

Bose F. Kelley, Jr.
Bose Kelly, Jr. enlisted in May 1942.  Bose graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport.  He was married to Betty Miller and working as a mechanic at Central Motor Company, a car dealership.  Bose volunteered for the Army Airborne, went to jump school and became a paratrooper.  Bose was part of the 507 PIR which became attached to the 82nd Airborne in 1943. The 507 PIR was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 1942 and trained there and in Alliance, Nebraska.  In 1943, the 507th PIR shipped out to Northern Ireland, then England, and it was in Nottingham where they prepared for the coming Allied invasion of France.  They studied sand tables, drop zones, and were given Hershey’s chocolates and a carton of cigarettes.

Bose was on a C-47, number 13 in his stick, as the plane lumbered through the fog banks toward Drop Zone T, near the west bank of the Merderet River.  Because of the fog and the incoming German flak, the C-47s flew faster and higher than anticipated which caused almost all of the paratroopers to miss the drop zone.  They were scattered over a 15 mile area.  The 507th was the last regiment to jump and by the time Bose Kelley’s C-47 was over the Cotentin peninsula the entire area was stirred up with flak coming from every direction. There were sixteen men in Bose Kelley’s stick and at least eight of them were killed that night.  The Germans had flooded the valley as a defensive tactic and some paratroopers, weighted down by equipment and unable to swim, drowned.  Bose Kelley was killed by a direct hit from an artillery shell.

Major General Paul F. Smith wrote in his Foreword to Dominique Francois’s history of the 507th,
“This regiment unquestionably received the worst drop of the six US parachute regiments dropped that night.”
Howard Huebner, who was number 3 in Bose’s stick, survived that drop.  He wrote:
I am a Paratrooper! I was 21 yrs old when we jumped into Normandy. 
We knew the area where we were supposed to land, because we had studied it on sand tables, and then had to draw it on paper by memory, but that all faded as our regiment was the last to jump, and things had changed on the ground. Most of us missed our drop zone by miles.  As we were over our drop zone there was a downed burning plane. Later I found out it was one of ours. The flack was hitting our plane and everything from the ground coming our way looked like the Fourth of July. 
When I hit the ground in Normandy, I looked at my watch.  It was 2:32 AM, June 6, 1944. I cut myself out of my chute, and the first thing I heard was shooting and some Germans hollering in German, "mucksnell toot sweet Americanos". 
We the 507th, was supposed to land fifteen miles inland, but I landed three or four miles from Utah Beach by the little town of Pouppeville. I wound up about 1000 yards from a French farm house that the Germans were using for a barracks, and about 200 feet from a river, an area that the Germans had flooded. If I would have landed in the water, I may not be here today as I can’t swim. A lot of paratroopers drowned because of the flooded area.
Local writer Gary Hines spoke to Bose’s widow, Betty, for an article he wrote for the August 2000 issue of SB Magazine.  She told him, “He was going to win the war and come back home.”  Betty was married at 18 and a widow at 20.  She told Mr. Hines “We were both young enough to feel that he was coming home.  He wasn’t going to be one of the ones who was lost.”

Edgar Rew Kelley
A third Kelley son, Edgar Rew, was drafted into the Army in 1943.  He was sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi where he died five weeks later from an outbreak of spinal meningitis.  He never made it out of basic training.  He was 27 years old; he left behind a wife of five years.

The remaining Kelley brother was Jack.  Jack Richard Kelley was serving in the medical corps in Washington at Fort Lewis.  His father, Bose Kelley, Sr., wrote to U.S. Representative Overton Brooks and pleaded with him to prevent his oldest son from going overseas.   It is reminiscent of the scene in Saving Private Ryan where General Marshall reads the Bixby letter to his officers.  In this case, in a letter dated December 8, 1944, Mr. Kelley received word that his son Jack would remain stateside for the duration of the war.  Jack Kelley died in 1998.

Sunday, May 18, 2014
The bodies of Bose Kelley, Jr. and his brother William (Bob) were buried in separate military funerals in France but were returned to the United States in September 1948.  Bose and his brother now rest side by side in the veterans section of Greenwood Cemetery in Shreveport.  Their brother, Edgar Rew Kelley, is in a civilian cemetery across town, the Jewella Cemetery on Greenwood Road.  Their father, who pleaded for his fourth son to be spared, died just one month after Bose and William’s bodies were buried in Greenwood Cemetery.  It’s as if he was just waiting for them to come home.

For sixty-five years their sister, Ruby, tended the graves of her brothers.  There has never been a time that I visited the graves that there was not a crisp American flag flying over each and flowers.  Ruby died last year and the graves are now tended by Ruby's daughter.  I visited the graves of Bose and William last week and sure enough, there were two new flags and flowers steadfastly in place.

As we observe this 70th anniversary of D-Day, we remember the sacrifices of young men like the Kelleys all across the country. Their name belongs alongside the Sullivan brothers, the Borgstrum brothers, the Niland brothers, and the Wright brothers.  It is their heroism and their sacrifice, along with that of so many others, that we remember and honor.

For further reading:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Greenwood Cemetery Memorial Day 2016

I've been unable to find anything in local media noting the Memorial Day ceremony at Greenwood Cemetery yesterday, so I thought it worthwhile to make note of it here.

Each year the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter No. 30, host the ceremony on traditional Memorial Day: May 30.  Most years this is not actually on that three-day-weekend Monday, but this year as it happens, May 30 fell on Monday.  Steve and I were a little worried that attendance would be down because the Hillcrest ceremony was at 9:00, the Keithville cemetery ceremony at noon, then the American Legion ceremony at 2:00.  The ceremony at the Greenwood Cemetery was at 1:00 so attending them all would take a superhuman feat of accomplishment.

Happily, attendance was about on par with past years though perhaps a little low - certainly understandable with so much going on this year.

A new addition to the organization line-up this year was the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

As in past years, the Parkway High School JROTC did a lovely job first posting the colors, then the National Anthem which was played on the violin.

The JROTC also did a flag folding demonstration, noting the relevance of each fold of the flag...

... and the cadets escorted various organizations to the flagpole for wreath laying.

Guest speaker this year was Jim Adams of the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home. He spoke of the importance of remembering the fallen, noting that it's certainly okay to watch a ballgame and light the grill on Memorial Day, but to take a moment and remember the sacrifices of those who made it possible.

The placing of the wreaths came next: The United Daughters of the Confederacy ...

...and other organizations made the procession.

Each group was escorted by the Parkway JROTC:

Also in attendance, as in past years, were the Sons of the Confederacy with their three-shot rifle volley that is always impressive!

This is truly one of my favorite Memorial Day services each year and I wish it was better attended.

Greenwood Cemetery is full of incredible history and is a fascinating place to visit.  It is beautifully maintained and well kept.  You may recall the Kelley brothers are buried there that I've written so often about, but there are so many other stories as well.

Memorial Day was a quiet one for us; after the service we went home, ate some watermelon and called it a day!  Still recovering from our trip, we didn't have much energy for anything else yesterday.

At any rate, local media may have been there, but I didn't see anything posted about the event and wanted to be sure the ceremony was noted. It is one that we never miss.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Monday, May 30, 2016

Home Again

I've been on vacation for the past week and thus the longer-than-usual dry spell between posts.  We spent a lovely week in Iowa visiting family and rushed back sooner than we may have liked in order to participate in several Memorial Day events today.  If you read this in time, be sure to get over to the Greenwood Cemetery at Centenary and Stoner for their annual Memorial Day ceremony at 1:00.

I'll share some vacation photos later -- I attended my first livestock auction, which was pretty neat, and we ate everything on our Iowa Food Bucket List like Maid Rite sandwiches and breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, among other things.  It was heavenly.

I love being in the Midwest for those patriotic holidays - Memorial Day or Independence Day.  It's truly the heart of America.

Take a moment today to remember the fallen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack

The youthful soldier stands at rest, facing north; his face is "handsome and sensitive, with a slight trace of bewilderment in it."  Perhaps his confusion centers on the conflict swirling around him, on the animosity and anger, or maybe he is attempting to understand how 150-years later, we are still such a divided country.

At issue throughout the South is the manufactured outrage over decades old Confederate monuments.This brouhaha has been roiling New Orleans under the mayoral term of Mitch Landrieu; it has erupted in Memphis,  in Louisville, and let's not even begin the discussion about the battle flag.  Now it has come, once again, to Caddo Parish.

The Confederate monument that stands in front of the north side of the Caddo Parish Courthouse has been challenged  this time by Caddo Commission member Ken Epperson.  The NAACP called for removal of the monument in the past and the issue dissolved into limbo when it was (once again) determined that the 400 square foot parcel of land the monument stands on belongs to the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, given to them for use in perpetuity back in June, 1903. The Caddo Parish Police Jury (the forerunner of the Caddo Commission) donated not only the land but $1,000, or ten percent of the funds needed to pay for the monument, to the UDC.

Portion of 1903 minutes with regard to Confederate monument.

After the end of the Civil War, it fell to the women across the South to bury their fallen sons, brothers, and husbands and to commemorate those who were buried in unmarked graves in places unknown.  Across the South, women banded together in memorial associations, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (founded in 1894), for they had a common purpose. By the time our Caddo Parish monument came into consideration in 1903, the second phase of Civil War commemoration was underway and monument building was prevalent.

Despite what the NAACP might tell you, the original intent was not to perpetuate division and celebrate conflict. The primary purpose of these monuments constructed during this second phase (1883-1907) was to not only memorialize the fallen but to educate those in the future who may not have the same "emotional and personal ties" to the war.  The figures on these monuments had no overt political message or content -- something the NAACP and the uneducated liberals might be interested to know.

Because public citizens donated money for the construction of these memorials, it was then believed that these memorials should be a subject of civic pride "to be displayed in conspicuous places" like courthouses, public parks, and cemeteries.  Local historian Eric Brock wrote in the Forum Magazine in 2006:

For many [Confederate soldiers] in unmarked graves around America's battlefields, it is a symbolic tombstone, a sacred place that should forever stand and be respected. Those who forget their history, it has been said, are doomed to repeat it. Worse yet are those who deny history, for they doom civilization itself.

Attempting to erase, or sanitize, or revise, history by dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars to move hundreds of monuments into warehouses or dry museums is cowardice. It is to deny the sacrifices of men who sacrificed and fought for what they believed was their sacred honor -- their homes, families, and their state's rights.  The issues that divided the nation then divide us still only because there are those hate mongers and poverty pushers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who make their living and line their pockets off our being divided.

In July 2015, David French wrote:

Many thousands of the men who risked their lives and spilled blood to defeat the Confederacy would be appalled. Abraham Lincoln would see the malice toward all, the charity toward none. Ulysses S. Grant would be shocked at the notion, for example, that Pickett’s Charge represented “false valor,” and the great warrior-abolitionist, Joshua Chamberlain, would be disgusted at the thought of digging up Confederate bones to make a political statement. But why take any guidance from Union heroes when determining how to remember the past? After all, tweeters and Facebookers know so much more about right and wrong, about justice and injustice. After all, they’ve spilled their own online blood, and they have the hate-tweets to prove it. 

It would take a dim mind indeed to believe that once the Confederate monuments are all gone that our roads will smooth out, the paint will stop peeling off the walls in our crumbling schools, criminals will put down their guns, and drugs will only be used for healing.

Perhaps Ken Epperson and Lloyd Thompson, and their ilk, should take some art history classes, step back and admire the artistic masterpiece that Texas artist Frank Teich created for us.  Not only does
our monument have the young, bewildered soldier, but there are four busts of Confederate generals carved from Texas granite.  And most unusual, and not seen on other Confederate monuments, is the full sized figure of a woman, the Roman goddess of history, Clio, who is writing the names of the Confederate dead in a book of history.  She is lovely.

Our monument is one of the most beautiful Confederate monuments in existence. It was installed in 1906 with thousands of people from Shreveport and Caddo Parish in attendance. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, the application for which can be found here and from which I have consulted for some of this background.

As it stands now, discussion about the future of the monument has been scheduled for June 9 when it will move before committee chaired by Mario Chavez who said yesterday:
"We have removed it from the agenda tomorrow and it has moved into my long range planning committee. We will have open discussion on June 9th at 1300 in regards to this topic. You better believe I plan on keeping it exactly where it is."
If you feel so inclined, you are welcome to attend the meeting, fill out a speaker card, and have your three minutes to speak before the Commission on the matter.

Local attorney Henry Walker was at the meeting this week and he expressed his concerns that the monument "could possibly affect a trial because of its "implied subject matter."  What would that implication be, Mr. Walker?  What exactly is implied by this monument of Confederate generals, military men of respect and honor, men of value and integrity?  Men of courage.  Men who stood up for their families.  What is implied by a lone woman writing in a book of history?  What is implied by a non-confrontational, bewildered young man?  Mr. Walker told the Commission that the monument is just a bunch of concrete.

That might be the most revealing quote yet.  What exactly is threatening about a bunch of concrete, Mr. Walker?

Just a bunch of concrete?!  Now I'm bewildered.

In past attempts to remove the monument, the NAACP suggested replacing it with a monument for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty -- even though we have one of those three blocks away. Now the suggestion is that we erect a monument to the USS Golet -- a submarine lost at sea during WWII which was financed with War Bonds, some of which were purchased in Caddo Parish and there was one Caddo resident aboard.

Liberal logic.

Here is the KTBS story of the meeting this week.  Here are the minutes of the Work Session this week.

It seems to me that in the end, preserving our past is the only way to protect our future.  Just as we can't wrap our children in bubble wrap and expect them to negotiate the travails of this world unscathed, we can not sanitize or revise history.  Sometimes that takes resolve and sometimes it is painful, but always it takes courage.  These times of division that we now find ourselves in, more so than ever before, will take courage and all of us pulling together to overcome the closed minded people who want to perpetuate division and discord among us for their own gain.

Hold strong.

Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Full of Promise, Bossier Bearkats Receive Their Tickets to the Future

Bossier Bearkats Graduation 2016
Yesterday was graduation day for most Bossier Parish schools at the Century Link Center which sits at the end of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway along the Red River.  School and city officials have this day down to a well organized machine as the parish high schools seamlessly run through the building all day long. As purple robed Benton High School graduates march across the stage, Bossier High School is lining up backstage. As the new Bossier High graduates are dashing out, gowns flapping behind them, Haughton High School moves in.  It's a pretty good system.

At the end of the day we have hundreds of new graduates.

As a teacher at Bossier High, it's my favorite event. The kids are excited, emotional, nervous, and proud.  And the families!  Oh the families!

Our senior class sponsor organizes our graduation and oversees the most minute details most people never think about like providing ties for boys who don't have them or white dress shirts. A large number of staff members show up to help on the big day. My job, along with the speech/drama teacher, is usually working to line up the actual diploma envelopes on a long table backstage.  After the ceremony, the new graduates pick up crisp white envelopes in which they will find their diploma, a souvenir copy of the program, and each senior also receives at least one personal, handwritten note from a teacher.  Some kids get three or four notes, but everyone gets at least one.  This is one of the unique traditions at Bossier High School that set us apart from bigger schools.

There were so many moments yesterday that made me misty eyed and that helped strengthen that fabric of family that defines Bossier High School:

That image of our librarian/senior class sponsor, papers in her hand, directing volunteer staff members to various positions: check the right side of the line, be sure everyone is lined up correctly!  Check the left side, be sure everyone is in the right place!  She is cool and collected and always smiling.  Reassurance defined.

The kids are all in line, waiting.  One teacher walks along the line collecting gum.  You do NOT go out there chewing gum. The senior counselor collects a nose ring and tucks it in her pocket.  Guys with earrings?  We'll take those until after the ceremony.  Everyone complies.  

One senior tunes out the noisy din, standing quietly in line with his earbuds in, hands in pockets, watching and waiting.  As time gets closer, he removes his headphones, unprompted, and slips them under his robe, into his pockets.

In the last few moments before the long walk down the hallway toward the auditorium, the principal has the kids link hands one last time and calls them to attention. There is utter silence. Pinkies are linked, hand are clasped. Silence. Then he speaks in familiar tones of their time at Bossier, of the love we share for them, and offers good wishes for whatever journeys are ahead.

In comes one late arrival, cap tucked under her arm and robe flapping behind her as she runs on perilously high heels to take her spot in line just as it is ready to move into the auditorium.  A staff member calms her down, pins the cap neatly, and slides her smoothly in line, ready to go.

The speeches are moving.  They are brief, about three to five minutes, but powerful. I stood with the speech/drama teacher in the wings, listening.  I was doing pretty well until the salutatorian, staggeringly tall, blond, and sweet as she can be, approached the microphone and began her speech with a tiny gasp of a sob in her voice.  "Come on," I whispered.  "You can do this!"  Urging her on with silent support.  The speech teacher next to me smiled confidently, peacefully, with the knowledge that this student would muscle through this. The crowd encouraged her with applause. She got through it.  Her speech was fabulous and caught every tiny memory that had occurred over the past four years in a five minute speech: chicken day on Wednesdays, the long run from the second floor of one building to the third floor of the other, football games, surviving multiple AP classes, and what got me was when she called out the support of her teachers that she will never forget, catching the essence of each one.  "Oh, that's great...," she quoted her English teacher's support and just nailed that teacher's voice in the impression.  Everyone laughed and clapped.

One of our two valedictorians gave part of her speech in Spanish to her parents who have sacrificed immeasurably to support their daughter's education.  It was a stunningly beautiful moment and filled with emotion.  Not many dry eyes in the house at that point.  I had to take that moment to slip back to my table of envelopes and find my tissues.

The kids are all so filled with promise and hope.  

I looked at the envelopes standing up alphabetically in the box, waiting for me to lay them out in rows on the table.  Each one of those envelopes represented twelve years of work.  Twelve years of relationships, love, support, and promise.  Each envelope represented a different person, a unique personality, a life wide open with promise. A ticket to the future.

As the new graduates marched down the hall after the ceremony, led by their class leaders, they were chanting "Bossier! Bossier!" It's the last time they will march together as a group, the last time they will all be together as a group, and the last time we will see some of them, although many of them will continue to return to Bossier just to visit, to be sure they've not been forgotten, to remember.

Those kids will now scatter far and wide, making new lives and new memories. As teachers, administrators, and staff, and as a Bearkat family, we have given them all we possibly could. We have taught lessons, both life lessons and academic ones, we have guided them, watched them grow, tried to keep them on the right, straight and true path, and we have loved them. We have gotten aggravated at them sometimes, but always loved them.  We are a family.

Godspeed little Bearkats!  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

It's Time to Face the Music

I can hardly bring myself to blog about Donald Trump, as you may have noticed.  I agree with practically everything Kevin Williamson wrote about him last week:

He is unfit for any office, morally and intellectually.  
A man who could suggest, simply because it is convenient, that his opponent’s father had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy is unfit for any position of public responsibility.  
His long litany of lies — which include fabrications about everything from his wealth to self-funding his campaign — is disqualifying.  
His low character is disqualifying.  
His personal history is disqualifying.  
His complete, utter, total, and lifelong lack of honor is disqualifying.  
The fact that he is going to have to take time out of the convention to appear in court to hear a pretty convincing fraud case against him is disqualifying.

There's more.

Truth is, there are quite a lot of things about Hillary Clinton that should disqualify her as well, but they don't.

I loathe Trump.  He's boorish and crude.  He's as far from the Ronald Reagan archetype as any candidate can be.

That being said, he is going to be the Republican nominee and any attempt to derail that through a third-party run or a brokered convention will be doomed to failure and will only ensure to elect Hillary, in my opinion.

Despite George Will's conviction that Trump can't possibly win, and Josh Gelernter's third-party scenarios, I think that at this point, Republicans must unify behind Trump. Certainly nobody wants to, but reality bites.

All the talk about Mitt Romney coming in to save the day is simply garbage. He ran and didn't win, he didn't want to run this time, and he's not going to save you now. And he's the only one with a ghost of a shot.

If America wanted a successful businessman to save the day, we should have elected Romney when we had the chance, but we didn't, and we aren't going to do it now.

I had dinner with friends recently who tried to make the case that as offensive and boorish as Trump is, as president Trump will likely surround himself with people smart enough to do the job that Trump himself can't do.  Trump may be ignorant of the responsibilities of presidential office, but maybe they're right.  Maybe he'll appoint the right people.  It's the only hope we've got.

We are in for a long, miserable campaign and God only knows what after that.  I long for the days when we had class and grace in the White House but those are so far behind us now I don't think we can redeem ourselves.

Perhaps I will unplug from the internet for a few more months...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Take a Trip to the Keachie Confederate Cemetery Memorial Service 2016

Located on LA172 just west of the main drag in Keachie is a quiet little spot where Confederate dead rest under the pines. Many of the dead are unknown.

 Keachie is a tiny town in DeSoto parish and is filled with beautiful old houses crumbling from neglect and decay. Towering, wood frame Victorian homes with wide galleries, tall windows, and exquisite architectural embellishments are slowly giving way to time. The cost to restore them must be staggering.

 Of seemingly more historic importance is the Keachie Women’s College on LA172 located across the road from the Confederate cemetery. Opened in 1856, the college was apparently quite an impressive structure:
A visitor to the College in 1890 would have been considerable impressed by the appearance of the physical plant which dominated the village of Keatchie. The main building was a large frame two-story structure with cupola over the principal entrance. This housed an assembly hall, or chapel, study hall, recitation rooms, music rooms and dining hall. A large galleried wing which extended to the eastward, provided "30 dormitories each 16 feet square." Across the street was another sizeable tow [sic]-story building, providing living quarters for men and boys. But then the country went to war and in April 1864 was the Battle of Mansfield and nearby Pleasant Hill. 
The Keachie Women’s College was pressed into service as a hospital and morgue; patients who did not survive were buried across the road in what is now the Confederate Cemetery.

Here is come very cool drone footage of the building shot in February 2016:

 The Confederate Cemetery is now cared for by the Sons of the Confederacy and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. There are many graves there, most marked “unknown.” It’s a very moving sight.

 This past weekend, the SCV and UDC groups met at the cemetery to remember the dead, to honor their sacrifice, and to place wreaths.

 The UDC bestowed two military medals on Confederate descendants who have served their country in military service. The cemetery is located right next to another cemetery, and buried there are families of some of those Confederate soldiers.

 The Sons of Confederate Veterans brought their cannon and put on a very moving reenactment for the guests.

Complete with rifle fire:

 After it was all over, there was cake, cookies, and lemonade to be enjoyed, much visiting, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.

 Our country is torn apart right now as groups argue about symbolism and monuments. Those men resting in graves under the hardwoods and pines in Keachie don’t much care about that. In truth, both black and white veterans are buried there and certainly they deserve to rest in peace and have their sacrifice to their cause remembered. I’m glad to have been there and to have learned a little more about the fascinating history in Kisachie, Louisiana.

There's a history of Keachie College here.

Learn more about the Confederate Memorial Cemetery here.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation