Houston Fire Fighter Reaps Bitter Harvest for Sowing Seeds of Understanding

In the January, 1999 issue of the "Houston Fire Fighter," the official paper of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, Lee Falco Jr., a twenty year veteran of the Houston Fire Department and a League of the South member, wrote an article explaining the history of the St. Andrew’s Cross. In his article, Mr. Falco explained the origin of the St. Andrew’s Cross, covering a brief history of the disciple Andrew, his crucifixion and his followers efforts in spreading the Gospel.

The article continued in explaining the Christian foundation of the symbol and about the different countries and states that incorporate this symbol of Christian heritage into their respective flags. The purpose of the article was to promote understanding of the Confederate Battle Flag, what it truly stands for and how some people misuse the symbol of our Southern Nation. One example given in the article of how symbols are used in negative environments and later misrepresented was how gang members may be wearing a cross on a chain around their neck during a drive-by shooting. This does not mean that the cross is a symbol of hatred and violence, and the same can be said about the displaying of the flag of the Confederacy.

The article was well written and covered its material in a thorough way, advocating understanding and good will. Along with the article was a drawing of the Confederate Battle Flag. The article was received generally with good reviews from all racial groups within the fire department. However, there were a handful of people who decided this was a racist attack on minorities and complained.

While Lee Falco could understandably foresee himself in the middle of a heated debate, he found just the opposite. He was excluded from the discussion of the article and how to respond to those that complained. The individuals who were upset (a small group within the fire department) mobilized the Black caucus and Hispanic caucus within the fire fighter’s union to debate what action should be taken against the paper. There is not a White caucus. There was an attempt to form one at one time, but white union members were told this would be seen as advocating racism and could cost them their jobs. White fire fighters are not provided a special voice within the union.

The Hispanic caucus saw nothing wrong with the article and even asked the Black caucus if they had read the article. The only response was to focus on the flag accompanying the article and declaring it was a racist symbol. The Black caucus pressed for an apology from the union paper and demanded the resignation of the editor.

Mr. Falcon told the paper’s editors that he saw no need to print an apology since he had written nothing advocating any kind of racism, but the editor’s disagreed. The editors printed an apology in the February issue of the paper. In the apology, the editor said that he had looked at the content of the article "...for its educational value to the membership on the original meaning of the Cross of St. Andrew and not on the symbol itself." The editor went on to say that if one member was offended, that was one member too many. Mr. Falco said he was offended that the paper printed an apology for publishing an article that there was nothing wrong with. Mr. Falco questions the union paper and the union itself for allowing a few to twist his good efforts into another bout of racial divisiveness. For his efforts to promote understanding and reconciliation between those that are proud of their heritage and those who have been misinformed as to their history, Lee Falco has come under harsh criticism by a handful of trouble makers that monopolize the attention of the Houston Fire Fighter’s Union.

Some members of the Houston Fire Department believe the paper owes Lee Falco an apology for not considering his side of the debate, and the Houston Fire Fighter’s Union owes all their union members an apology for not treating all its members equally and allowing them all, regardless of the color of their skin, to have equal representation within the union. Lee Falco has been under intense scrutiny since these events took place and has been forced to remain silent to protect his job. Lee Falco said that this kind of abuse of our Constitutional right to freedom of speech has gone on too long and does nothing to promote unity within Dixie. Mr. Falco does not deserve the scorn of his fellow fire fighters, but their admiration for standing up for his beliefs and the truth. He has acted as his Southern ancestors would have and deserves our praise and admiration.

Jeff Adams
February 15, 1999