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By Associated press
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – The governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, was 17 when he joined the Kappa Alpha fraternity of Auburn University. Each spring he organized an "Old South" party where he and other members wore the Confederation uniform.
Since then, the fraternity has ended the tradition and Lee, who has been away from his Alabama university for four decades, said he regretted wearing and wearing the uniform, and came to see his participation in the event differently.
A spokeswoman for Lee confirmed Thursday that the 1980 Auburn Yearbook included a photo of the governor and another man in Confederate uniform.
"Although I have never intentionally acted insensitively, with 40 years of hindsight, I realized that it was insensitive and I came to regret it," said the Republican governor.
The scandal involving two Virginia politicians who once carried a blackface led to a new review of the past race behavior of elected officials across the country. Lee's comments were heard during interviews conducted by the Associated Press with governors from across the country following the scandal in Virginia. Lee's comments were reported Wednesday by The Tennessean.
Lee, who was sworn in as governor in January, briefly explained to the PA how he had managed to consider his actions. Subsequently, he said through the intermediary of a spokesman that he had never worn blackface nor participated in parties where others did so nor taken part in other activities or organizations since the college which would be considered insensitive or offensive with regard to the race.
The annual "Old South" parade of Kappa Alpha in Auburn ended in 1992, said university spokesman Preston Sparks. In the meantime, the national fraternity organization banned the use of Confederate flags at any chapter in 2001 and the wearing of uniforms and parades in 2010, said a spokesman at the AP.
In the photo of the 1980 yearbook, Lee wears the uniform of the Confederate soldier and stands with a woman dressed in a prewar dress. Lee's office said that he did not immediately know the woman's identity.
Another woman and another unidentified man are also in the picture and wear the same kind of clothes.
There are two other photos with Confederate characters wearing Confederate clothing, on which is the legend: "The South will rise again, that's it Bill!" When the group plays "Dixie", a tear falls on us I would do anything about Lee but she comes first. "
The page also explains that Kappa Alpha was based on ideals that "formed the framework and fabric of southern culture" and that his founding fathers saw Confederate General Robert E. Lee as "chivalry, courage, loyalty." and respect for women ".
Auburn's 1978 yearbook, Lee's first year, described the party sponsored by Lee's Kappa Alpha fraternity as "one of the largest social events on campus."
He described the festivities as follows: "Preliminaries last one week and end on Saturday night, with the sound of rebel howls and hooves of horses being heard at the KA parade on College Street – reminiscent of 39, one of the most difficult, the greatest times. "
The directory noted that Alpha Kappa had also sponsored an event called Convivium, Robert E. Lee's birthday celebration. The yearbook stated that he was "exemplary of the Southern gentleman" and represented the attributes "that KA strives to defend – to train leaders not just followers."
The Old South evenings were a kappa alpha tradition on other campuses, including at the University of Georgia in 1983, when Georgia's current governor, Republican Brian Kemp, was a student. Kemp belonged to another fraternity and nothing in his directories suggested that he attended the evenings.
Kemp did not respond to the AP investigation.
Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, attended Auburn a decade earlier than Lee. The photo of his sorority's 1967 yearbook shows five members wearing black masks depicting "minstrels" in a hurried sketch, but Ivey said she was not in the picture. Its caption reads: "Alpha Gam Minstrels welcomes the rushees aboard its star."
The photo is on the same page as the description of the sorority and the achievements of its members. The page notes that Ivey was vice-president of the student body.
Ivey, a Republican, said that she did not remember the skit.
"When we showed this image, it had to be a hurried sketch or something of the sorority at one point, but no, I did not remember it," she said. declared. "I certainly was not one of them."
Ivey said "there is no room" for blackface and that she never wore it. When asked if she had ever made a remark perceived as insensitive to race, she replied that she did not expect it.