WESLEY CHAPEL — Samuel Pasco, the county’s namesake, was English-born, Harvard-educated and a U.S. senator from Florida after he fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

In 1887, Pasco was speaker of the state House of Representatives. In his 52-year life, he also served as a school principal, attorney and the clerk of courts for Jefferson County.

Known as a staunch Baptist, Pasco also was a member of the state Democratic Executive Committee. He died in Tampa in 1917.

Pasco is now in the news because his name was recently removed from consideration for induction into the state Veterans Hall of Fame, on the first floor of the Florida State Capitol’s rotunda.

Also removed from Hall of Fame consideration by the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs were Edward Perry, the state’s 14th governor, who served under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and David Lange, a Confederate soldier who later helped found the Florida National Guard.

The state Department of Veterans’ Affairs decided to remove the names of Pasco, Perry and Lange reasoning that Confederate soldiers are technically not veterans. That decision is now being reviewed by the state attorney general’s office.

“The review is still in progress,” R. Steven Murray, communications director for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said this week.

The situation bothers David McCallister, commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans, Judah P. Benjamin Camp, No. 2210. The Sons of Confederate Veterans submits names of people to be considered for induction into the hall.

“We chose who we thought were good candidates,” McCallister said. “Pasco came to Florida (from Massachusetts) and signed up with Florida. A couple of years later he was wounded in the war and captured as a POW.

“(As governor) Edward Perry signed a pension plan (for Confederate veterans) and Lange is the father of the Florida National Guard. If he’s not good enough for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, I guess nobody else is either.”

The Veterans Affairs decision to exclude the former Confederate soldiers has been applauded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Florida Conference.

Adora Obi Nweze, president of NAACP’s Florida Conference, was unavailable to comment for this story. However, the association started an online petition that would ban Confederate soldiers from induction into the state Veterans Hall of Fame.

“We should not honor the Confederacy in 2015,” Nweze wrote in the petition to Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers. “Florida’s leaders must stand on the side of freedom, not with those who fought to continue the enslavement of Americans.

“The three Confederate veterans are ineligible for induction because of their service in rebellion against the United States. They fought to tear apart our country, in support of savage slavery, in a misguided, hateful attempt to uphold that abomination.”

Nweze wrote that Pasco, Perry and Lange served “on the wrong side of history,” that their induction would be “an injustice” to the descendants of slaves and “an insult to all Americans who have bravely served our country with honor.”

She concluded that inducting Confederate veterans into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame would be “like a modern declaration of civil war by the State of Florida.”

McCallister disagreed, arguing that the controversy “is not an NAACP issue.”

“They’re not a veterans group,” he said. “And actually, there were probably about 2,000 black men who were Confederate veterans.”

He added that Pasco, Perry and Lange “weren’t slavers and racists.”

“We don’t want to do anything except honor veterans,” McCallister said. “Our ancestors happen to be veterans and some of them happen to have served through Florida in the Confederate States of America.”

gfox@tampatrib.com

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