COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - It's been almost a year since the Confederate battle flag was lowered at the state house and handed over to the Confederate Relic Room for display, but the future of that flag and others like it is still unsettled.
If you visit the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia and ask to see the Confederate flag, you'll find plenty. The museum tells the story of South Carolina's military history. But you won't find the flag removed from the state house grounds last summer. That flag is still in a box.
"It immediately went into storage in an acid-free box with acid-free tissue, into alarmed storage in an environmentally secure area, and there it has been since then," museum director Allen Roberson said.
South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill to remove the flag July 9, 2015. The law gave specific, yet limited instructions for the flag to be "transported to the Confederate Relic Room for appropriate display." The state's estimated fiscal requirements for a future display were also limited.
The SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum Commission submitted a feasibility study and budget to display the flag to the General Assembly in December 2015. The proposal included a $550,000 display for the flag as part of a $3.6 million expansion to the museum.
"We just don't have the space right now," Roberson said. "We are literally busting at the seams."
The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum tells the story of South Carolina's rich history on the battlefield. It features flags of South Carolina military throughout history. But Roberson believes the Confederate battle flag removed from the statehouse is something different and needs to be put into context, rather than putting it along side other historic battle flags.
"This flag needs to be exhibited in a special manner," Roberson said. "It's not really a military history artifact."
In fact, the flag sitting in storage right now almost wasn't an artifact at all.
"It was not on the pole but for a week and a half," Relic Room registrar Rachel Cockrell said. "After the protester took it down, they put this flag up and this is the one that was taken down in the ceremony."
On June 27, 2015, police say an African-American woman named Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole at the state house and removed the flag. When she was detained, the flag was put into police evidence, and missed out on the historical moment. The flag at the Relic Room now is just the last in a line of Confederate battle flags to fly on the state house grounds.
From 1961 to 2000, a rectangular version of the flag used by the Army of Tennessee flew atop the state house dome. When the General Assembly voted to move the flag in 2000, the smaller, square Army of Northern Virginia battle flag was raised next to the Confederate soldiers monument.
The General Assembly failed to respond to the Commission's proposal this spring and also introduced a proposal to study moving the museum and flag to Charleston. That study was vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley and sustained by lawmakers, leaving the flag's future in limbo.
"We always knew that this was a special case, it would take some time and that we wanted to get it right," Roberson said. "I'm not being naive about this, but hope we can, as much as possible, try to settle this issue."
While the museum waits for direction, so does another state institution. The Confederate Naval Jack is still on display at The Citadel's Summerall Chapel, even though the school's Board of Visitors voted overwhelmingly to move it a year ago. The school's President, Lt. Gen. John Rosa formally asked lawmakers to amend the Heritage Act and allow the flag to be moved. This would require a similar act of legislation that brought down the statehouse flag last summer. The General Assembly didn't even consider legislation on the flag during the 2016 session.
One immediate impact of the Confederate flag's removal from the state house was the end of the NAACP boycott and NCAA ban. The SEC women's basketball tournament is returning to the state for the first time since 2005. Greenville will host the event next March.
The next step would be hosting an pre-determined NCAA event like the men's basketball tournament, or NCAA golf or tournaments. Based on recent NCAA men's basketball events held in North Carolina, a South Carolina host city could expect an economic impact of $4-5 million. The state hasn't hosted the NCAA men's tournament since 2002, when it was hosted in Greenville. The event hasn't been in Columbia since 1970.
Both Greenville and Columbia plan to submit bids in August to host events for the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons. Scott Powers with the Columbia Regional Sports Council says the state's capital city plans to submit proposals in all available sports. After multiple visits to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Powers says the staff have given him reason to believe the chances are good.
"They haven't said that, but they are very excited to be able to accept bids from South Carolina again," Powers said.
The NCAA will announce host cities for the 2019-2002 cycle in December.