Local veteran gets help fighting homeowners association

Battle started over small flag displayed on porch

By Heather Leigh - Reporter , Francine Frazier - Senior web editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville veteran's fight over a small, American flag fixed inside a potted plant on his porch has reached the West Coast.

Larry Murphree has been at odds with the Tides Condominium at Sweetwater Homeowners Association over where he chose to display the Stars and Stripes. The association said the flag violates HOA rules and told Murphree to pay $100 a day or take it out.

The HOA then put a foreclosure lien on Murphree's house, because it said he wasn't paying his dues – not because of the flag. But Murphree said he has an automatic payment plan set up and, according to his bank statements, the money came out, but the HOA won't say where that money went.

Lear Capital saw Murphree's story on News4Jax last month and decided something had to be done. The Los Angeles company, which is named for a veteran, said it couldn't believe Murphree was getting push back from his HOA over displaying the American flag the way he wants to.

They made a hefty donation to Murphree, which will help cover the cost of the lien, fines and attorney fees as Murphree continues his battle.

"It hit our desk and quite frankly offended our sensibilities," said Lear Capital CEO Scott Carter. "We have paid a hefty price over hundreds of years to be able to hold up the flag and display it."

Murphree said he never expected to get support from 3,000 miles away, but he said the donation exceeded his wildest dreams -- and justifies his fight even more.

"I don't think he's looking for media attention," Carter said. "I don't think he's looking for celebrity. I think what he's looking for is to say, 'I'm a veteran. I'm 73. I'm proud. I want to put my flag on the front porch. Don't tell me what to do.' We have fought to have the freedom of self-expression, and he wants to express it this way without offending anyone else."

Murphree, who's on vacation looking forward to celebrating the 4th of July, said he's talked with people in 17 other states and the support is overwhelming.

"It's a fight everyone wants to win," Murphree said. "It's gratifying to know that other people feel the same way about the flag as I do."

Murphree said he plans to meet with his attorney Monday to decide what's next. He said he has 20 days to respond to the foreclosure lien before the HOA files it.

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