GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes says it's inevitable that Mississippi will change its state flag to a less divisive symbol, and he has a suggestion: Mississippi's first official flag, adopted in 1861 - the Magnolia Flag.
Mayor Hewes announced Sunday that the Magnolia Flag will now fly at Gulfport City Hall, just under the current state flag, "on the chance our citizens can rally around a symbol that has a connection to the past, but represents renewal and promise for the future."
"This is not about erasing the past," Mayor Hewes wrote. "It's about being honest about the present, and working toward a productive future. The reality is that Mississippi's flag will be changed. The question is when, and into what? What better time to make a statement, than during our Bicentennial observance, as we embark upon the third century of the Magnolia State's existence?"
The mayor believes one of the main reasons the 2001 state referendum to change the Mississippi flag didn't pass is that "the alternative symbol never managed to capture the imagination, because it provided no relevant connection for our citizens."
He believes if the Magnolia Flag had been offered as a historical alternative, the referendum might have delivered a different outcome.
"People don't typically embrace change for the sake of change. There has to be a compelling reason, desired result, or emotional connection to it. That is one of the main reasons the referendum for a new flag in 2001 did not pass," Hewes wrote.
You can read the mayor's full opinion piece below, and on the City of Gulfport-Mayor's Office Facebook page where residents are already starting to share their opinions.