The number of Tennessee drivers ordering the state’s Confederate flag license plate has surged over the last few years, a report says.
The Tennessee Department of Revenue reports that drivers have ordered 3,273 Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates by the end of fiscal 2018, a 72 percent jump over the number ordered in 2015, The Tennessean reported.
According to the data, orders for the license plate have been steadily increasing since 2016. Data from previous to 2015 was not immediately available. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SVC) plate was first offered in 2004.
Still, even with the surge in orders, the number of SCV tags represent only a tenth of a percent of the 5.6 million license plates issued by the state.
James Patterson, the commander of the Tennessee chapter of the SCV, said that the surge in orders is likely due to his organization’s focus on preserving history, but also probably represents a backlash against liberal efforts to erase Civil War history.
“Every time that some of our history that we’re so proud of has been attacked, people have gone out, and probably some members who had license plates but quit renewing have gone back and put them back on their vehicle,” Patterson told the paper.
A portion of the sales from the tag goes to benefit the SCV. State records show that the organization has received $57,700 from sales of the plates in 2018 alone.
Patterson said that the money is spent on preserving history, erecting monuments on private property, cemetery restoration and maintenance, and legal fees to pay for efforts to prevent some cities from removing Confederate monuments. The group also donates money to the Tennessee State Museum to preserve Civil War artifacts, flags, and other items.
The state legislature has launched several abortive attempts to cancel the SCV plates and to stop their sales. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam even supported the move to dump the plates initially. However, after Democrats introduced a bill to cancel the tags, Haslam backed away from supporting it citing fiscal reasons.
Despite his decision to pull support from the bill, Gov. Haslam’s office still claims that he supports the elimination of the tags.
In a statement to the paper, Haslam’s office said the Gov. “feels that the Confederate battle flag and Confederate monuments are divisive and it would be more appropriate for those symbols to be displayed in museums.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.