Near freeway, giant Confederate flag?

TAMPA — Next year, a giant Confederate flag may tower above the tree line near the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4. The Sons of Confederate Veterans wants drivers in the Tampa area to see the massive flag — 30 feet high and 50 feet long — atop a 139-foot pole, the highest the Federal Aviation Authority would allow. It would be lit at night.

With the pole already in the ground and building permits in hand, the group is on its way to having what it calls the "world's largest" Confederate flag in place by mid 2009. The group just needs about $30,000 more, said Douglas Dawson, Florida division commander. Several nearby business owners don't mind. It's history, they say, and it's on private property. Tampa resident Marion Lambert owns the small triangular plot just west of Interstate 75 along U.S. 92 E.

But when Hillsborough County NAACP president Curtis Stokes heard about the plans to have the flag flying next year, he was shocked. "I'm surprised that they would allow something like this to go on in Hillsborough County," he said.
The county has wrestled with sensitive Confederate issues in the past. In 1994, the Confederate flag was removed from the county seal. Last year, county commissioners recognized Confederate commander Robert E. Lee on the same day they honored a black civic leader. Commissioners later apologized and haven't since recognized Lee.

It's the commissioners' responsibility to make sure plans don't move forward, Stokes said. The flag would send the wrong message about the county and it would be embarrassing because many visitors use the roads, he said. Code enforcement officers won't be able to stop the project because flags were removed from county sign regulations in 2004. County Commissioner Kevin White, whose district includes the flagpole site, could not be reached for comment Friday. ...snip

Who is the Sons of Confederate Veterans?
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a national organization founded in 1896 that bills itself as a "historical, patriotic and nonpolitical organization dedicated to ensuring that a true history of the 1861 to 1865 period is preserved." It's open to male descendants of Confederate veterans.

The Florida division of the group has more than 1,500 members, according to its Web site. The group supported the proposed Confederate Heritage license plate, which did not pass this legislative session.