Hodges Met With Ex-Chief of CCC

Associated Press
Charleston Post and Courier, Friday, February 12, 1999, page B12

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Politicians who have associated with Council of Conservative Citizens members are catching heat again, and this time the criticism includes South Carolina's new Democratic governor, Jim Hodges.

During last year's campaign, then-candidate Hodges met with Jerry Creech, a former chairman of the council's South Carolina chapter, to discuss keeping the Confederate flag atop the Statehouse.
The council has been portrayed as a racist and white-supremacist group. Critics have said some Republicans, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, should not have spoken its members.

The Palmetto Journal posted a story on its Internet site about Hodges' meeting with Creech, and the state Republican Party distributed the story this week.

"Hodges met and organized a campaign with the council, which played a significant role in his campaign," said GOP Executive Director Trey Walker. "It was not by accident."

But Hodges' spokeswoman, Nina Brook, said he was asked to meet with supporters of Lexington County Sheriff James Metts, who had dropped out of the governor's race.

"When this story was getting floated, it was getting floated as a Council of Conservative Citizens story," Brook said. "He did not meet with a representative of that organization."

Along with Creech, Hodges met with Ron G. Wilson of Easley, who has described himself as an officer in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Hodges said that if he were elected governor, he would not try to remove the flag but would sign any compromise the Legislature approved, the newspaper reported.

Creech and Wilson then formed the Palmetto League, a group of flag supporters who hated Republican Gov. David Beasley for his attempts to remove the flag from atop the Statehouse dome.

"The chickens came home to roost, and the beneficiary was Jim Hodges," Wilson said.

After Hodges' election, Creech, Wilson and other flag supporters met with him again at his transition office where he thanked them for the support and reassured them his stance had not changed, the newspaper said.

The St. Louis-based council got headlines last month when it was disclosed that Lott, R-Miss., and U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., addressed meetings. Both said they were unaware of its racist reputation and have since denounced the group.

Council publications have likened interracial marriage to genocide and suggested that Abraham Lincoln was elected by communists.

Some GOP leaders also want Buddy Witherspoon, a Republican National Committee member from South Carolina, to step down as a CCC member or be removed from his party position.

"Buddy presents the wrong image," said Martha Edens of Columbia, a former national committee member. "We have enough problems. He needs to make a clean break. I don't think his membership in that organization is representative of the Republican philosophy in this state."

Witherspoon has defended the council and denied it holds racist views. He said the group advocates conservative causes, especially the right to display the Confederate flag in the South. He refused to discuss his future with the party.