The College of Charleston’s president, Glenn F. McConnell, on Thursday backed the governor of South Carolina’s call to move a Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds, breaking his silence on the issue following last week’s mass shooting in a black church.
Many observers had been waiting for Mr. McConnell to speak out about the issue. He is a former lieutenant governor and state senator who, in 2000, helped arrange a compromise that moved the flag from atop the state Capitol’s dome to a memorial on the statehouse grounds. His appointment as the college’s president drew considerable controversy in part because of his past ownership of a Confederate-memorabilia shop and his participation in Civil War re-enactments.
On Thursday morning Mr. McConnell added his voice to the chorus of college leaders and lawmakers who have supported moving the flag from the statehouse grounds. He said in a written statement that times had changed in the 15 years since the compromise on the flag. In the wake of last week’s shooting, which left nine people dead, “the time has come to revisit the issue of the Confederate soldier’s flag, which a number of our citizens regard as offensive.”
He said he supported Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s call to remove the flag from statehouse grounds “as a visible statement of courtesy and good will to all those who may be offended by it.”
But he urged activists and others who are focusing on the issue of Confederate imagery “not to transfer the fight to other physical vestiges and memorials of our state’s past,” such as monuments and building names.