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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – The flap over Confederate flags now sweeping the nation is stirring in the Florida Panhandle, where folks who failed to get the controversial banner removed more than a decade ago have revived their efforts.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, this week called for the flag to be removed from its post in front of the state Capitol in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. Haley called the Confederate flag “a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”
Similar efforts by elected officials from both parties to banish the flag and other monuments to the Confederacy are underway throughout the country, including in Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.
In 2001, then-Gov. Jeb Bush ordered the divisive banner to be removed from its perch atop the Florida Capitol building. A year later, Walton County lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder, the son of Bush acolyte Steve Uhlfelder, was unable to persuade county commissioners to give the same treatment to a Confederate flag flying in front of the courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
Uhlfelder, who lives in Santa Rosa Beach, has renewed his attempt to purge the county courthouse of the flag. Uhlfelder, with the help of his wife Michelle, got the item on the Walton County Commission’s July 14 meeting agenda.
“Do we want to celebrate and sanction a symbol on public property that reminds us of hatred, slavery and division? Do we want to pass down a feeling of complacency with the status quo on this issue to my children and your children? I love the South and know we are better than this,” Daniel Uhlfelder wrote in a recent op-ed.
The Uhlfelders started a petition drive Wednesday to drum up support for their cause. Within 24 hours, 278 people — including Tallahassee movers and shakers, many of whom who own property in the county renowned for its white sand beaches — had signed onto the effort.
Barry Richard, a prominent Tallahassee lawyer married to Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant, is among those backing the cause.
“I’m embarrassed to live in a community that flies a symbol of the worst period of hatred and disunity in our country’s history,” Richard, who owns a home in Santa Rosa Beach, wrote in the comments section on the change.org petition site.
Uhlfelder said he saw the recent commotion concerning the Confederate flag — and the subsequent endorsement from Republicans, including the son of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, to take it down —- as an opportunity.
“It seems like maybe there’s this change in the opinion of people from 13 years ago, or maybe there’s more support for this to get done this time,” he told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.
The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam and Jim Turner contributed to this report.