In July 2013, in front of a giant Confederate flag, Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves welcomed members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to their national convention in Vicksburg.
Reeves, who was first elected to statewide office in 2003, is currently running for Governor of Mississippi. He is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and the current favorite to win the November general election.
Tate Reeves at the 2013 SCV National Reunion
On July 17th, 2013, Reeves spoke during the opening ceremony of the Sons of Confederate Veterans National Reunion at the Vicksburg Civic Center.
The event began with the singing of “Dixie,” followed by a prayer, and then remarks from Reeves.
A contemporaneous blog by an SCV affiliated organization, the “Prattsville Dragoons,” described Reeves’s speech:
“Mississippi Lt.Gov Tate Reeves then addressed the convention conveying to everyone that he is proud to be from Mississippi and the South and a part of the SCV Reunion as prayer and pledges opened the event. He welcomed everyone to Vicksburg, the key to Mississippi and congratulated the SCV for keeping history alive for our youth. He is proud to support the Mississippi monument at Shiloh and explained that the War Between the States defined us and what we as a nation have become.”
Reeves’ remarks were warmly-received. According to the same account, “Lt. Gov. Reeves was given a standing ovation.”
Far from hiding or disavowing his association with the group or its symbols, Reeves posted a picture of himself at the event on Facebook.
Who are the Sons of Confederate Veterans?
Founded in 1896, the SCV has for most of its existence focused on tending the graves of Confederate veterans. Beginning in the 1990s it began to more aggressively promote the public use of Confederate symbols, and argue for more sympathetic historical accounts of the Confederate cause.
Despite the more aggressive tone of recent SCV activism, the organization is not considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC does consider it part of the “Neo-Confederate” spectrum, however, which does include hate groups like the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens.
During the 2013 event opened by Tate Reeves, SCV leader Michael Givens gave a speech which was frequently at odds with generally accepted historical interpretations:
“We’re here in Vicksburg today, and Vicksburg was the place where there was a battle that we lost. Gettysburg happened right after, when we lost, and from then on we started going down.
“And we lost the right of having a free nation. We lost the right of Americans to be able to plan their destiny, to choose their way of government.”
It is very clear from the context of the speech that the “we” Givens refers to is the Confederacy, and that Givens sees the failure of the Confederacy as a historical tragedy.
News Growl asked Tate Reeves for a reaction to Givens’ speech but did not receive an immediate reply.
Even before Reeves’ public appearance at the event, highly controversial sentiments from the SCV were on public display.
In a video promoting the 2013 convention the Reconstruction-era song I’m a Good Ole Rebel is sung in the background.
The entire song’s lyrics can be heard, including lines which denounce the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America, and the American flag:
I hates the yankee nation and everything they do.
I hates the declaration of independence, too.
I hates the glorious union, t’is dripping with our blood.
I hates the striped banner, and fit it all I could
Tate Reeves is running for governor
Tate Reeves was first elected to statewide office in Mississippi when he ran for State Treasurer in 2003. After two terms in office he then ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2011 and is now serving his second term.
As was widely expected, Reeves announced his candidacy for governor on January 3rd.
Reeves is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and in 2018 raised a million dollars more than his main Democratic rival, Attorney General Jim Hood.
Like most Southern states, Mississippi has a complex relationship with Confederate symbols. The square “Confederate Battle Flag” has been part of the Mississippi state flag since 1894.
There have been several efforts to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Mississippi flag, all highly contentious. Reeves has argued that if it is to be removed it needs to be decided by a referendum.
“I’m against unilateral action by the Mississippi Legislature to change the current state flag,” he told the Jackson Free Press in 2017. “And if the people of Mississippi want to make a change, and at some point they might, then it is imperative that the people have a chance to vote on changing that flag, so that’s the only bill I would support.”
Besides declining to take a firm stand on the flag himself, Reeves clearly would like Mississippi to not have to dwell on its past faults.
“I believe strongly that in many instances we need to stop apologizing and start bragging about Mississippi’s many great accomplishments,” he said.