State Politics

This could be the year Mississippi lawmakers take a stand on the state flag

The city of Gulfport flies the current state flag and the "Magnolia" flag that flew over Mississippi from 1861 to 1894 when the current state flag was put into use.
The city of Gulfport flies the current state flag and the "Magnolia" flag that flew over Mississippi from 1861 to 1894 when the current state flag was put into use. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The fight over the state flag and Civil War monuments could be settled in the Legislature this year.

A bill filed by Rep. Greg Snowden, speaker pro tem of the House and chief lieutenant of Speaker Philip Gunn, would add a second state flag with “equal status and dignity in representing the state of Mississippi.”

The bill gives specific instructions for the new flag, including a star in the canton and a “Magnolia grandiflora with white flowers” in the center. That is the description of the Magnolia Flag that some in South Mississippi prefer over the current one.

The canton is the source of contention over that current state flag, which has a Rebel flag in the upper left corner.

Snowden’s bill says “each design may be flown individually as the official flag or they may be flown together.”

Mississippi Rising, a South Mississippi group, has been asking cities and counties along the Coast to take down the state flag. Some have. Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson started flying the state flag shortly after he took office last year, then took it down. The Board of Aldermen then voted to require the flag to be flown at city buildings.

Flag opponents have continue to press Ocean Springs on the issue. A group of business people are actively opposed to it.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes has taken Snowden’s approach and flies both flags. But he also said the current flag should be changed.

Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich ordered the state flag taken down in April.

Another bill would keep the current flag and require it flown over public buildings.

Sen. Mike Seymour, R-Jackson County, filed a bill that would require the flag be flown “on or at each building in which an office of a governmental entity that receives state funds is located and on each campus of each public college or university or public school district.” He and Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, filed separate but virtually identical bills that would prohibit the removal or alteration of “statues, monuments, memorials or nameplates” that relate to any of America’s wars, including the “War Between the States.”

Some states, including neighboring Louisiana, have removed statues that deal with the civil war. All eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the flag.

And finally, a bill filed by Rep. Kathy Sykes, D-Jackson, wants a different flag altogether and she describes it with much specificity.

“On a field 10 units high by 15 units wide, vertical bars at the hoist and fly, in Old Glory Red (Pantone red 193C), three units wide, flank a central panel in white,” the bill reads. “Centered in the panel, a large five-pointed star in Old Glory Blue (Pantone blue 282C), inscribed within an imaginary circle four and seventy-five hundredths (4.75) units in diameter, is surrounded by 19 small five-pointed stars in Old Glory Blue (Pantone blue 282C), each with a diameter of seven-tenths unit and oriented point-upwards, equally spaced with their centers on an imaginary circle six and nine-tenths units in diameter and one star at the top of the circle.”

It also details the symbolism involved. Each bill was assigned to the Rules Committee of either the House or Senate.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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