On November 3rd, Mississippians went to the polls to vote in the 2020 General Election. On the ballot was a new design for the state flag of Mississippi. The design won with over 70 percent of the vote across the state.
“Mississippi voters sent a message to the world that we are moving forward together,” said Judge Reuben Anderson, chair of the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag. “I have a renewed sense of hope for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I know this new symbol creates better prospects for the entire state of Mississippi. I am grateful to the commissioners for their leadership and to the voters for their support.”
Controversy surrounding the previous state flag, which depicted Confederate battle symbols, has long plagued the state. Over the years, individuals, special interest groups and some politicians have all attempted to push for the removal of that flag and replace it with something that better represents all Mississippians.
Rewind a few months to the summer portion of the 2020 Legislative Session. In the midst of a global pandemic, management of the state budget, and appropriation of $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding, a motion was made to remove the flag.
Over the last several years there has been legislation to try and do away with the former flag, but this year it seemed the bill would stick… and it did.
HB 1796 was presented in the Legislature in mid-June. The bill would immediately retire the flag of 1894 with Confederate symbolism and establish a commission that would later scour through over 3,000 design submissions to select the one for Mississippians to vote on. The legislation also required that no Confederate symbols be used and the words “In God We Trust” be inscribed.
The momentum for a change was there, and that is exactly what happened. By a vote of 91 to 23 in the House and 37 to 14 in the Senate, the bill was passed.
Within the next few days, the official removal of the 1894 flag took place across the state, culminating at the state Capitol. Mississippi would not fly an official flag for the first time in 124 years.
The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House then went on to select commissioners for the newly created Flag Commission.
Appointed were: Judge Reuben Anderson, Mayor of Oxford Robyn Tannehill, Dr. Mary Graham, TJ Taylor, J. Mack Varner, Sherri Bevis, Betsey Hamiliton with MDAH, Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben and Frank Bordeaux with the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Judge Anderson was then asked to Chair the commission, and he accepted.
Over the next two months, the selected commissioners were tasked with narrowing down thousands of design submissions until one stood out. During the process Mississippians were also able to voice their opinion on designs being considered through a website set up by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The commissioners finally landed on the “In God We Trust” flag that depicts a magnolia, 21 stars and the red, blue and gold colors. This flag was passed by the commission and placed on the November 3rd General Election ballot.
In order to pass, the flag had to receive a majority of the votes of registered voters in the state. Over 70 percent of Mississippians voted for the new design, solidifying it to be Mississippi’s next official state flag.
As early as Wednesday morning after the election, Universities and cities across the state began flying the new colors. However, it will not be official until the Legislature returns for the 2021 session to formally enact the design into law.
This morning, Mayor @toby_barker was joined by Hattiesburg City Council Members, former Mayor Johnny DuPree and the Hattiesburg Fire Department’s Honor Guard to raise what will be the new flag for the State of Mississippi.
— City of Hattiesburg (@Hattiesburg_MS) November 4, 2020
A Message from Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce:
“At the University of Mississippi, we are very proud to unfurl the new flag representing a new day for the State of Mississippi.” 1/2 pic.twitter.com/LVHFb1zkGh
— Ole Miss (@OleMissRebels) November 4, 2020