(CNN) — During the Civil War, it was a patch of the South so reviled by the Confederacy for its pro-Union leanings that it in 1862 it was declared “enemy territory” by the secessionist government.
The area’s most celebrated native, Andrew Johnson, was the only Southern senator to remain loyal to the Union. Johnson would go on to become president, succeeding Abraham Lincoln.
Now, more than 150 years later, Greene County, Tennessee, is once again ruffling feathers on matters pertaining to the long-gone Confederacy. This time, however, the rebellious county just might turn the historical tables and for the first time fly the Rebel flag. The county commission will vote Monday on a resolution to fly the controversial banner above its county courthouse.
“Greene County recognizes and remembers those who fought for the South (…),” reads the measure, sponsored by Commissioner Buddy Randolph. “These efforts of these men to persevere must not be forgotten and the Confederate Flag represents that heritage and history that our County should be proud of (…) ”
Randolph, 67, scoffed at any critics who might have a problem with his proposal.
“If people have a problem with it, it’s their problem,” Randolph told CNN affiliate WJHL “It’s just a part of history.”
It’s that “part of history” stuff that’s rankled historians like Richard Hood, a retired history professor living in Greene County who blasted Randolph for his “astoundingly distorted historical memory.”
“Greene County was profoundly anti-Confederate,” Hood wrote in a letter to the editor published last week in the Greeneville Sun. “Commissioner Randolph may not like this history, but it has the virtue of being factual. He should be celebrating Greene County’s heritage of resistance to the Confederacy, not propping up a grotesque distortion of ‘history’ that debases our true past and offends many, many of our own neighbors.”
Flag’s Divisive Power
The Confederate flag has long been a lightning rod, especially deep in the heart of Dixie, where the memory of Jim Crow and institutional racism still cuts deep in some quarters.
But in the wake of a hate-fueled mass murder of African-Americans in North Charleston, South Carolina, in June, the Confederate flag has increasingly grown out of fashion, even below the Mason-Dixon line, as more and more institutions, retailers and state capitols distance themselves from a symbol that for so many symbolizes the very hatred embraced by the Dylann Roofs of the world.
But none of that seems to matter to Randolph, who told WJHL that his proposal “has nothing to do with race or anything.”
Monday’s County Commission meeting, slated to get underway at 6 p.m., is expected to draw a number of protesters, according to WJHL. The vote on the Confederate flag is the first resolution on the agenda, scheduled to be taken up shortly after the Greene County commissioners pledge their allegiance to another flag.