It was a tranquil day outside. Light winds barely rippled flags. The question facing Mississippi voters this April is -- when the state flag does unfurl, should the confederate battle symbol still be on it?
At a luncheon, former Governor William Winter said no. According to the flag commission chairman, "Its presence on our state flag labels our state and confirms in the minds of so many people the worst images that they have of us."
Those words came from a speech Governor Winter gave to the Gulfport Business Club. He said that the last time he was on the coast, his flag commission experienced the divisiveness that the confederate battle symbol creates. "We haven't exactly found unanimity of opinion on what that flag ought to look like."
On this visit, Winter said it's time for Mississippi to put its racist past to rest once and for all. And the flag commission chairman said the only way to do that is to ratify the new flag design, and turn the current flag into a historic flag. "Despite all that we've done and as far as we've come," Winter said, the flag "remains the thorniest, trickiest, and most difficult barrier that we confront, to achieve a truly competitive and unified society."
After Governor Winter's speech, the Gulfport Business Club conducted a straw poll. Seven people voted for the current state flag that's flying over my left shoulder. But 73 people supported the new flag design. Club member John Harral said, "It shows not just from the business community, but from many people who are forward thinking people that it's time for a change in the flag."
The referendum vote on the state flag is set for April 17th.
A recent poll determined that if the flag election were held now, the current state flag would still fly. Almost 55% of the people surveyed by Zogby International supported the flag with the confederate battle symbol. The poll found that 34% favored the new design.