Keeping the Lost Cause Alive

I picked the Sunday paper up from the drive and took it into the house. I stood over the trash can, as I always do, and began sorting. First, I threw all of the inserts, except the manufacturers’ coupons, in the can. Then, I threw in the want ads and real estate sections, and finally the sports section. That’s right; I have zero interest in sports. In fact, the last game I attended was a football game in 1957.

Having saved the main news section, metro/state news section, and the opinion section, I began reading the headlines while sipping a cup of coffee. There really isn’t much worth reading in the newspapers these days. Whatever news a person wants comes quicker over the internet. The only valid reason for reading a newspaper, especially in public, is to appear literate. Back in “ye olden days” a person who wanted to appear intelligent and informed would carry around a copy of The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, or New York Times. Today anyone seen reading a book, magazine, or newspaper is assumed to be an elitist.

Enough of that, what I want to talk about are two short articles in the Sunday paper that caught my attention. The first bore the headline, “Citizens’ Council’s tax status revoked.” For those of you who are over fifty or living outside of the Deep South, it was better known as the “White Citizens’ Council.” It was founded in Indianola, Mississippi in 1954, to fight desegregation and “help maintain our Southern way of life.”

The founder of the White Citizens’ Council was a former Mississippi State University football star and prominent Delta planter, Robert “Tut” Patterson. The organization grew rapidly. Soon there were member councils throughout the southern states with as many as 60,000 members. Many of its members were prominent citizens—judges, lawyers, bankers, politicians, and even preachers.

Well, back to the issue of the infamous IRS revoking the White Citizens’ Council’s tax exempt status. According to the article in the Sunday paper, a Mississippi accountant and graduate of the University of Mississippi—a.k.a. “Ole Miss”—found the Council’s name on a list of 275,000 organizations across the nation whose tax exempt status was being revoked. Not being familiar with the history of his state, Mr. Norris sent a form letter to the Citizens’ Council in Jackson offering his services to the organization, if they wished to recover their tax exempt status.

Mississippians are not noted for their attention to history, unless it has to do with the Civil War—a.k.a. War Between the States. Mississippi was the only one of the former so-called Confederate States of America that did not abolish slavery in 1865. The planters feared that they would not be reimbursed for the monetary value of their former slaves. It was not until March 1995 that the state legislature finally got around to formally abolishing slavery in the state of Mississippi.

Another article that caught my attention was titled “Ala. Still collecting Civil War tax.” Could it be true? Is the state of Alabama, the state that calls itself the “Heart of Dixie,” still collecting a Civil War tax from its citizens, almost 146 years after the war ended? Yes Sir, they are!

It seems that Alabama imposed a property tax to support a home for Confederate veterans who returned to Alabama after the war ended in 1865. The last surviving Confederate veteran living at the home died in 1934, but the state never stopped collecting the property tax.
The property tax in question is 6.5 mills, or about $39 on a home valued at $100,000. Three mills are used for education, 2.5 mills are applied to the state’s operating budget, and 1 mill, originally for support of the veterans’ home, is now used to fund the Confederate Memorial Park. It costs money to keep the memory of the “Lost Cause” alive. In fact, it costs almost half as much as is given to education from collecting the tax.

Shortly after I first moved to Mississippi some 18 years ago this month, I purchased a book of Mississippi jokes put together by a couple of Alabamians. In the introduction, the authors said that the people of Alabama are grateful to God for Mississippi. Why? Because that means that Alabama does not have to be the last in the nation on everything positive, and the first in the nation on everything negative. I’m not sure that the competition is always limited to those two states. I suspect that Louisiana and Arkansas are in the running.

Well, that’s the news from the Deep South. For those who do not subscribe to the Sunday edition of Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger, you can find the articles mentioned on the internet at http://www.clarionledger.com/section/NEWS01/Metro-State.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation, and always live under the mercy.

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