Governor Phil Bryant is member of Confederate heritage group
When a Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans state officer requested a gubernatorial proclamation designating April as Confederate Heritage Month, the request was fulfilled by a fellow member — the governor.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who has held public statewide office since 1996, is a member of Rankin County’s Lowry Rifles Camp #1740 of the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), an SCV officer confirmed to Mississippi Today.
That membership makes him the most prominent sitting public official in the United States who is a known member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the SCV and similar groups.
“He doesn’t attend regular meetings, but his dues are paid and his membership status is current,” said Marc Allen, Mississippi SCV public affairs officer and a member of the same chapter as Bryant. “Gov. Bryant has Confederate ancestors like many people in Mississippi do. This is one way we can honor and pay respect to American veterans.”
Bryant’s office did not respond on Wednesday to repeated calls, text messages and emails seeking comment.
“The continuous acknowledgment by the governor as he celebrates and recognizes the month of April as Confederate Heritage Month, and his membership in such organizations as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, cannot help but be of concern to me and members of the Legislative Black Caucus as well as other residents in the state,” said Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport and chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is the largest pro-Confederate group in the South, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SCV is a self-proclaimed “heritage, not hate” group.
In Mississippi, Allen said, the group’s activities range from maintaining Civil War cemeteries and Confederate monuments to helping people trace their genealogical history.
Males over the age of 12, who provide proof of descent from a Confederate soldier, may join the organization. National, state and chapter dues typically total less than $100 per year.
“In 1896, General Stephen D. Lee charged the SCV to carry on the good name of the Confederate soldier and to carry on the vindication of the cause,” Allen said.
“We help people do a lot of things. We help people do genealogical research. We do civic projects,” he said. “We’re all about Mississippians celebrating Mississippi, and we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Although those who fought in the Confederate army fought with valor and pride, what they fought for was wrong,” Williams-Barnes said. “It is a constant reminder to people in Mississippi of the demeaning and inhumane acts which were inflicted on our ancestors.”
“It’s time to move forward,” she said. “It’s time to move Mississippi forward.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a running list of “hate groups,” or organizations that hold “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
The law center does not list the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a hate group, although analysts there said hate groups work hand-in-hand with the SCV.
As South Carolina officials sought to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds days after the 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, the Sons of Confederate Veterans hosted numerous flag rallies, strongly opposing the flag’s removal.