The Country Gentleman, "Dixie," and the Confederate Flag

A brief history of Confederate symbolism and its role on Clemson's campus.

Before at least 1930, the use of several controversial figures and traditions could be seen at Clemson football games, both home and away. These included the tradition of Tiger Band playing Dixie, the mascot known as “The Country Gentleman”, and the unfurling of a massive Confederate Battle Flag as the Tiger football team made its way down the hill. There is no known start date for these traditions, but in 1930 a Greenville News Piedmont writer named “Scoop” Latimer coined the name The Country Gentlemen for the mascot who maintained several different appearances, from a well-dressed member of high society and later appeared in typical Appalachian yeoman garb. Although there is no definite start date for these controversial displays, one thing is certain, and that is that the African American community at Clemson sought to rid the football games of these racist symbols. In the Fall of 1969, shortly before the home game against Alabama, the SLBI made calls for the traditions to be put to permanent rest. In the ensuing days, racially charged posters appeared in dorm windows around campus, and a student petition was sent around that pleaded with Central Spirit to let the traditions continue. After a tense encounter between white and black students behind the Johnstone dorms, in which no physical harm was inflicted , but several students were armed and threats and racial language was exchanged, Joseph Grant, SLBI chairman, called for all African American students to leave campus. It was only under assurance from Dean of Students Walter Cox that the students returned. Cox quickly held meetings with both Grant and William F. Stierer Jr., one of Clemson’s first African American history professors, and several student groups, and within a week, Central Spirit had reached an agreement to end the racially charged traditions.
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