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Williamson responds to allegations from local attorney

SELMA — Since becoming president pro-tem of the Selma City Council in April, Cecil Williamson has faced charges of belonging to racist hate groups from Faya Rose Toure, a local attorney and wife of State Sen. Henry “Hank” Sanders.

Williamson was the object of Toure’s verbal attack at the most recent city council meeting. She was removed from the council chamber after her agenda time expired.

The Selma Times-Journal has been charged by Toure and others with being biased for not reporting her charges, and Williamson criticized for not responding to the charges. This story attempts to set the record straight as to what was said by Toure at the council meeting and Williamson’s response Saturday to the Times-Journal’s request that he speak to the matter.

During that council meeting Toure passed out photographs of Williamson at a birthday celebration for Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, pointing to a widespread belief that Forrest was an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and that Williamson’s attendance at the party suggests he associates with racists.

In one of the photos Williamson is seen standing at a podium in front of a Confederate battle flag. Toure also handed out a different photo which depicted a caricature of an African-American child eating watermelon.

Williamson said he honors Forrest because the Confederate general saved Selma from burning and much more looting and pillaging that could have occurred when Union forces moved in after the Battle of Selma in 1865.

Further, Williamson said he has attended the celebrations for the past 11 years.

“That’s why I am surprised this has just come up,” Williamson said. “Every year, for the last 11, the group has had a re-enactment of an old Southern birthday celebration in honor of Gen. Forrest. It is out in the Sardis area, and it’s attended by 200 or 300 people from all over the South every year.”

The celebration, Williamson said, includes a historical speech about Forrest’s life along with period music and food. Williamson said he did stand in front of a Confederate battle flag. “Absolutely. It was a Forrest birthday celebration,” he said. “People need to understand the Confederate battle flag was not an official government flag. It was a flag that was carried into battle.” Williamson said he stood at the podium to introduce the speakers.

Referring to the photograph of the African-American child eating watermelon, he said, “I do have to say I did not see that and had no knowledge of that.” Williamson said the photograph depicted a plaque from the 1920s. He said he was not offended by it because it is a historical piece. “History is what it is,” Williamson said.

Williamson disagrees with Toure about the founding of the KKK by Forrest and points to a book about the KKK published by the Southern Poverty Law Center which talks about the KKK formation by four men from Pulaski, Tenn. “Of course everyone knows he (Forrest) disbanded the Klan in 1869 when it became very violent,” Williamson said.

Toure accused Williamson of being a member of The League of the South, which she says the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a hate group.

Williamson said he was a member when the group organized about two decades ago.

“It was organized more as an academic exercise by people who were professors, primarily,” Williamson said. “They were men who taught at The University of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and at first it seemed to be academic exercise about Southern independence, and they wrote a series of articles about Southern independence now, not about the 1860s. I was a member of the League of the South for about eight years, and then when I started law school in 2001, there were some things I had to give up because of the time constraints, and that was one of the things. I have not belonged to the League of the South since 2001. And, of course, there was a split in the League of the South between those who wanted to make it more political, those who seemed to want to make it more radical, certainly more than I wanted it to be. Because as I have said, I have not been associated with it since 2001.”

The council president said he is not, nor has he ever been, a member of the KKK.

He also said he will continue to serve out this term as council president, but will not seek elective office again.“I am going to retire,” he said.