GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Less than 24 hours after the landmark vote to retire the Mississippi state flag, officials removed the flag from the Harrison County courthouse in Gulfport.
The charge to remove the flag was led by Harrison County Supervisor Kent Jones. He was flanked by Gulfport City Council members Kenneth “Truck” Casey and Ella Holmes-Hines.
As the flag was removed from the pole the crowd erupted in applause. Dozens of people showed up to the courthouse to witness the historic moment that many thought they’d never see.
“I used to walk from Center City to Thirty-Third and get spit on from the buses where we couldn’t ride. This is a day that I thought would never happen, but thank God. Thank God. Thank you, God,” said Gulfport resident, Elizabeth McCree.
This leap into an uncharted territory gave McCree and others who were there to witness the bold step, a new sense of pride.
“I feel proud of Mississippi now and I feel proud of our young people—the youth. They are the cause of this, from one tragic to this. I didn’t realize they were so strong and had such a strong voice,” said McCree.
Joseph P. Hudson is a life-long South Mississippian. He too never dreamed of this day.
“The people, through their representatives and through their activism, have decided that they want to go a new direction rejecting the hate of the past and deciding to move forward to the future with the lowering and the ending of this flag,” Hudson said. “History moves on. Time moves on. Times change. People get a better sense of what a good society ought to be. This is a decision that supports a better society for all of us,” said Hudson.
A better society that began as a strong voice on the coast with a plea from elected leaders in Gulfport.
“Today is historical! I remember when this was the image that every child in Harrison County saw. It was never a good image when you have the horse statue and the flag,” Gulfport City Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines said. “It is a great day, not only in our city... because I was worried if the city took it down and Harrison County still had it up, how is that going to bless us? When the state of Mississippi, we thank God for Sonya Williams-Barnes, that we came together as a unit of all elected officials. Councilman Casey started with our fifth time with the city of Gulfport. It’s a great day. We need to have this unification in the state of Mississippi,” said Hines.
The efforts of those that came before him were not lost on County Supervisor Kent Jones.
“It’s a good day for Harrison County and the state of Mississippi. I think that the legislature has spoken, and this is a new day and it’s time for a new history. We’re just glad to be on this side of it,” Jones said. “I’m just a conduit for the ones that have done it long before me. The mere fact of lowering the flag is very minute. It’s the ones that have fought so hard over the years to get it lowered— that’s where all the credit goes.”
Public institutions will have 15 days to remove the retired flag.
Before it appears on a ballot in November, the new flag design will be decided by a flag committee of nine people selected by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and Governor Tate Reeves. A new flag must be designed by that appointed nine-member commission and presented no later than September 14th. It will then need a majority vote to be accepted as Mississippi’s third official flag.