Anthony Hervey, an African American who was a vocal supporter of the Confederate flag, died Sunday in a motor vehicle crash.
The Associated Press reports that Hervey was driving a Ford Explorer Sunday when it ran off a Mississippi highway and overturned. According to reports, Hervey swerved and lost control while arguing with the occupants of a vehicle that had pulled up alongside him.
Hervey, 49, had been a polarizing figure in Mississippi for more than a decade, serving as a vocal opponent to removing or altering the state flag, which includes a small Confederate battle flag in its corner. Hervey had argued that the Confederate flag was a part of the south’s history and heritage.
Arlene Barnum, a passenger in the SUV Hervey was driving, told the Associated Press that she and Hervey were returning from a rally they had attended in Birmingham, Alabama. Hervey and Barnum had been at the rally to show their support for the Linn Park Confederate Monument, which city officials are considering removing.
In Barnum’s account, a car occupied by a number of angry-looking African American men appeared to be following her and Hervey. The men pulled alongside, and they and Hervey yelled back and forth. Hervey swerved and the SUV left the roadway, spinning and flipping before coming to rest. Hervey was knocked unconscious and Barnum used her smartphone to call for help.
Mississippi Highway Patrol officers confirmed to the Associated Press that their crash reconstruction team is working on the crash investigation, but declined to confirm Barnum’s account that Hervey was forced off the road.
The Clarion Ledger reports that Hervey was a well-known character in the town of Oxford, Mississippi. Hervey was often seen on the town square and local college campus dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform and carrying the battle flag.
The newspaper spoke with Sparky Reardon, the recently-retired dean of students at Ole Miss. Hervey frequently led protests on the college campus and he and Reardon developed a friendly, if antagonistic, relationship over the years.
“He was a master at street theater,” Reardon said of Hervey. “He and some of the evangelical preachers we’ve had here really know how to draw a crowd and provoke a crowd. He wasn’t prejudiced. He made everybody mad. It was a shock and pain when I learned he’d been killed. As contentious as it might have seemed, Anthony and I really had a great relationship. It took a black man in a confederate uniform to get us to reconsider where we were and I think we’re a much better campus now because of it.”
[Image by Arlene Barnum / Facebook]