How a 25-foot flagpole becomes a national cause celebre.
The Flag Man
Flag-waving became fashionable too late this year to help the cause of local lawyer Richard Oulton, who lost a few fights in his quest to fly Old Glory in his Wyndham neighborhood.
"I was told the flag was a visual nuisance," Oulton says of the residential covenants that ban his 25-foot flagpole. "It should be a basic property right to fly the American flag on your own property," Oulton continues, "and we have a bill which will be introduced in the Virginia General Assembly next year to protect that right."
Oulton says his neighbors signed letters of support for his cause. One of them, he adds, helped erect the flagpole in the first place. Wyndham, though, is fighting to protect the restrictive covenants that all owners automatically accept when they buy property there. Oulton thinks there are discrepancies: "These neighborhood authorities have more power or authority over individuals than governments do. They can have specifications for compost piles, architectural requirements for doghouses and birdbaths, but in this case they have nothing about restrictions on flying the American flag."
Oulton plans to appeal his case to the Virginia Supreme Court and has incorporated the American Flag Alliance, a foundation that will work on legislative advocacy in all 50 states to protect property owners' rights to fly the American flag in ways that are consistent with the U.S. flag code. Last week, he filed a $1.3 million lawsuit against Wyndham Foundation. And next month, Oulton and his wife Ava tell their story to the television newsmagazine "20/20."
"I guess I've become the Wyndham flag man," Oulton says. "People from all over the state seem to be very much aware of it. I never expected anyone to object to my flag, and I surely didn't anticipate any of this. In the end, I believe the system will work. It's much more convoluted than I would ever have thought, and I'm a lawyer."
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