‘We’re not losing history': Coast legislators celebrate bipartisan bill to retire state flag

Updated: Jun. 29, 2020 at 7:54 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Gov. Reeves has said he will finalize the bill to retire Mississippi’s state flag this week during a ceremonial signing. It’s a historic move for the Magnolia State, who has flown the former flag since 1894.

The flag was voted on in a bipartisan measure that passed both the House and the Senate by wide margins. Representatives in the House voted 91-23, with people breaking into applause and cheers once the vote was announced. It was a similar scene later in the day when the Senate passed the bill with a vote of 37-14.

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann admitted he became emotional when he read the result.

“It’s a tremendous vote when y’all look at that, people from all across Mississippi,” said the lieutenant governor. “So it was not just a Democrat measure. In fact, there were more Republicans who voted for this bill than there were Democrats. It was bipartisan. It was just time.”

Several lawmakers from the Gulf Coast took an active role in the legislation process and were relieved to walk out of the chambers knowing the flag will be changing.

“We’re not losing history,” Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula. “We are gaining a future for Mississippi and we will no longer be defined by that. We can set our own future.”

“Today’s a good day,” said Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes of Gulfport. “It’s wonderful that Mississippi now sees that the flag needs to come down and that there needs to be a change, a flag that all of us can be proud to carry.”

After years of debate, not everyone left the Capitol happy. Lee Anglada drove from Biloxi to express his disapproval.

“It’s not about hatred, it’s about history,” said Anglada. “One of my relatives is buried in Biloxi Cemetery in his Civil War uniform. He was a shrimper. He just wanted to go fight in the war. He was a stupid kid, ya know. You can’t just erase history everywhere because it doesn’t change people’s hearts and minds.”

Business leaders like Mississippi Power’s Anthony Wilson, who also leads the Mississippi Economic Council, was an outspoken supporter of the flag change.

“It gives us the opportunity to now bring in businesses that, up to now, have not given us the opportunity to show them what a great place to do business Mississippi is,” said Wilson.

Gov. Reeves is expected to sign the bill into law this week during a ceremony. That bill states that the new flag must meet two criteria: it cannot contain any confederate imagery and it must contain the words “In God We Trust.”

The bill signed calls for a flag committee of nine people to have a suitable replacement ready by Sept. 14, 2020, so it can appear on the ballot in November. If the new flag does not get a majority vote, it will not come up for vote again until 2020 and there would be no state flag in the interim.

The new flag design must include the words “In God We Trust” and not include the Confederate battle flag. Citizens will vote on that new design this November.

To read House Bill 1796 in full, click HERE.

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