Tenn. Retiree Wins Confederate Post

The Associated Press/August 2, 2002

Memphis, Tenn. -- A retired government worker was elected Thursday to a top post with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, narrowly beating an opponent with white supremacist ties.

Charles Hawks had 325 votes in a runoff election for commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, one of the group's three national divisions. Kirk Lyons had 308.

Neither had a majority vote on the first ballot earlier Thursday.

"We withstood the fire,'' said Hawks, 59, of Raleigh, N.C. "We'll be stronger. We'll move on.''

Lyons said he was proud of the votes he received: "There will be another race, another day, another time.''

Lyons, a lawyer from Black Mountain, N.C., has talked of "Southern ethnic cleansing'' and has represented members of the Ku Klux Klan. Hawks said Lyons' election would hurt the group's image.

More than 1,200 members registered for the group's annual convention, being held through Saturday.

According to its Web site, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is a "historical, patriotic and non-political organization dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.''

The group, based in Columbia, Tenn., says it has 30,000 members.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, described Lyons as a white supremacist and "darling of the neo-Confederate extremists.''

In a March 16 letter posted on the Sons' site, Lyons said he has never belonged to any extremist group, "but as an expert and a defense lawyer, I do understand their background and motivations.''

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