CRESTVIEW — Few North Okaloosa historical figures inspire as much passion, discussion, dissension and questions as William Allen Lundy.
Descendants fondly consider "Uncle Bill" Lundy a loving ancestor and a simple farmer. Local residents widely accepted him as Florida's last Civil War veteran.
Lundy died Sept. 1, 1957. A year later, the Crestview Lions Club erected a monument in memory of Lundy and other Confederate veterans near the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and State Road 85. It was later moved to its present location on a small, city-owned triangle of land bounded by S.R. 85, Hickory Avenue and First Street.
While the monument itself is not controversial, the Confederate battle flag fluttering above it periodically stirs up debate. The City Council will discuss the topic at a specially called meeting tonight.
Uncle Bill was born Jan. 18, 1848, on a farm in Pike County, Ala., according to family members quoted in "Crestview: The Forkland" by Claudia Patten and Betty Curenton.
Uncle Bill said he never saw Civil War battle, serving instead as a home guardsman protecting the Coffee County, Ala., courthouse, according to the book.
"He didn't even fire a shot during his wartime service," the article states, using information provided by Lundy's grandson, Gerald Lundy.
Lundy moved to Florida following the war, ultimately settling in Crestview to live out his years with his son, Charles. He is buried in Alamarante Cemetery in Laurel Hill.
Public records don't support Lundy's claim to veteran status, according to an article by Virginia native William Marvel in the February 1991 issue of "Blue and Gray," a Civil War history magazine.
"The census of Walton County, Fla., shows he was not born until May 1860," the article states. "In 1910, he made no mention of having been a Civil War soldier."
The 1910 U.S. census provided opportunity for Civil War veterans to identify themselves, Marvel's article stated.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, people started to claim Civil War veteran status so they could qualify for pensions, according to Marvel.
"An aging (Southerner) need only tack on a few more years and fabricate service in some obscure militia unit," Marvel said.
The practice was not uncommon, Betty Curenton's nephew, historian Mark Curenton, a Laurel Hill native, said.
"By the late 1920s and early 1930s, actual veterans were getting scarce," Curenton said. "Old men would get together and swear to each other's pension application in order to qualify for the money. There were not any real soldiers left at that time to dispute their claim."
"Civil War A to Z," a 2007 reference edited by Clifford Linedecker, describes Lundy as a "discredited veteran," whose claim "would have meant he was serving under arms when he was a mere 5 years old."
Lundy's great granddaughter, Ani Powell, did not return requests for comment in time for publication.
While no one on either side of the issue disputes honoring Lundy, it is the flag flying over the memorial the excites passions the most.
Tonight's discussion was initiated when the previous flagpole was replaced earlier this year and the Confederate battle flag, which had previously flown with the Stars and Stripes, was hoisted alone.
Ironically, historians say the likelihood of Lundy having actually served under it was unlikely.
His year of service, if it wasn't a fabrication, was spent guarding a civil institution, which would instead have flown the Confederate States of America's "stars and bars" flag.
However, Mark Curenton said, by that late stage of the Civil War, what flag was flying was of minimal concern.
"By the end of the war, they were more concerned with getting enough food to eat and clothes to wear than making sure they had the correct flag," he said.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Crestview City Council special meeting to discuss Uncle Bill Lundy Memorial
WHEN: 6 p.m. tonight
WHERE: Crestview Community Center, behind the post office
DETAILS: Each person or group wishing to make a presentation should fill in a blue speaker card and present it to the City Clerk designee prior to the meeting.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.