Dent Myers, the man behind Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, a controversial store in downtown Kennesaw that sold Confederate memorabilia, died Sunday morning.
He was 90.
His death was confirmed to the MDJ by longtime friend Marjorie Lyon.
Ever since Wildman’s opening more than 40 years ago, the store has sold Confederate antiques and books, items that caricature African Americans, pro-segregation posters and a decades-old Ku Klux Klan robe.
“We don’t have bias against anybody. It’s just history,” Myers said in May 2020. Of course, that view was not shared by everyone, and his controversial store has, over the years, attracted international fame, as well as journalists, protesters and vandals.
Last summer, activist art collective INDECLINE claimed responsibility for vandalizing the Wildman’s building. INDECLINE artists installed drawings of characters from “The Smurfs” cartoon giving inappropriate gestures and behavior on the side of the building. They had also spray-painted the words “RESPECT EXISTENCE” and, below, that, “OR EXPECT RESISTANCE.”
The summer before that, Myers’ shop was the setting of demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Calling him an outdated relic who needs to close his Civil War shop and “go away,” demonstrators gathered downtown in May and June of 2020 to protest Myers’ “attitudes” they said make minority residents feel unwelcome.
“He’s an embarrassment to this town, and he needs to close up and go away. Cobb County is better than that,” protester Parker Quigley, of Smyrna, said in June 2020. “We want Cobb County to be for everybody, and many of my Black and Hispanic friends said they don’t feel welcome when they see the flags flying here. It gives off the wrong message.”
Myers had some unlikely allies, however, including Kennesaw barber Jimmy Dickens, a former city councilman who is African American.
Dickens stood beside Myers outside Wildman’s during a protest in May 2020. He would later tell the MDJ, “I knew that (the marchers would) probably end up there, so I just wanted to come and allow the protest but let it be peaceful.”
Years ago, after hearing horror stories about Myers, Dickens paid the old shopkeeper a visit. That visit eventually blossomed into a friendship. Dickens said Myers donated to his campaign when he ran for councilman and the two would call each other and visit.
“I’m not going to agree with everything that Mr. Myers does and he’s not going to agree with everything I do, but what we can agree on is to respect each other and show each other godly love, and that’s all that a person can ask for,” Dickens said.