By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
After weeks of acrimonious debate, Richard F. Murphy, president of the Confederate Stamp Alliance, has called a halt to plans for debating the alliance’s future at its mid-year meeting Oct. 9-10.
Saying the CSA had become racked by dissension and rumors, Murphy canceled a planned discussion of the 80-year-old group’s future at the Asheville, N.C., meeting.
In a Sept. 3 newsletter, Murphy apologized for causing the tumult within the CSA, which focuses on stamps issued by the Confederacy and the South’s postal history during the Civil War.
“If I caused the turmoil by my actions as president, I am truly sorry, as that was never my intent,” Murphy said.
“I, and only I, am responsible for asking the question if the CSA logo needed changing,” he continued.
That discussion about the use to the Confederate battle flag became the vehicle for an intense debate about the group’s future.
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Some members raised questions about the group’s name and whether the organization should be broadened to include the North’s postal history during the Civil War.
Murphy, a resident of a Charleston suburb, had raised the question of the flag after the June 17 murders that killed nine people at a prominent African-American church in the city.
In his newsletter, Murphy said the debate had gotten out of hand.
“The turmoil of these last two months is not in the best interests of the CSA, Inc.,” Murphy said. “There is too much misinformation being circulated.”
As a result, Murphy said he has decided to put aside the plan for the organization’s future that a committee was drafting.
“I feel a cooling off period is necessary to allow the newly elected team … to independently develop and implement future actions,” Murphy said in the letter.
His comments came after a group of collectors opposed to plans to refocus the organization’s direction secured places on the ballot.
“The mid-year [meeting] in Asheville will hopefully be a time for healing, fellowship, networking and, of course, the dealer bourse and presentations,” he concluded.
Murphy said he plans to step down as president at the Asheville session but plans to remain on the board of trustees.
CSA trustee Maurice Bursey of Chapel Hill, N.C., told Linn’s that some collectors were deeply troubled by the Charleston murders.
“We are so appalled by what happened in Charleston,” said Bursey, a retired chemistry professor.
“We don’t want anything to do with the flag … [or] to give any more glory to that sick kid,” he said, referring to the 21-year-old white man charged with the murders.
“I made a statement to the rest of the trustees, if the flag stays, I go,” Bursey told Linn’s.
Other CSA members told Linn’s they are furious over what collector and dealer Chuck Hanselmann of Yorktown, Va., described as the efforts “of certain groups to dismantle the organization.”
“It is bizarre,” Hanselmann said, adding that CSA members are calling each other over the issue “screaming and yelling.”
“There was never any thought of dismantling or dissolving the organization,” Murphy said. “The Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to guard the corporate assets, not to give them away.”
Hanselmann and three others announced they would run for election to CSA offices, with an aim to keep the organization focused on the Confederacy.
“I would like to keep the society as it is,” said Brian Green, a Kernersville, N.C., collector.
“This has nothing to do with philately,” he said, an apparent reference to the moves being made by political leaders in a number of states to remove Confederate symbols from places of public display.
“You can’t erase history,” Green said.
Hanselmann, a leader of those opposed to changing the CSA, offered an explanation for the president’s change.
“Rich Murphy greatly underestimated the reaction of the membership,” Hanselmann said. “He now realized that the cat is out of the bag and the overall feeling is strongly against such a change.
“He will wisely step aside to let the newly elected trustees and president deal with the organization,” said the Yorktown, Va., collector.
“I have never seen an action raise the blood pressure of an entire group of people like this in my life,” Hanselmann said.
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