The Mississippi Legislature returned for the 2021 Session on January 5 and wasted no time getting to business.
The House, nearly immediately after gaveling in, took up HB 1 which will ratify the new Mississippi State flag design. House members voted 119-1 in favor of ratification. The measure was then sent to the Senate where it passed early Wednesday morning by an original vote of 38 to 7 with one present. However, that vote will change before the end of the day today as more members check in to the Capitol.
Those voting against the ratification in the Senate were: Kathy Chism, Joey Fillingane, Chris McDaniel, Mike Seymour, Melanie Sojourner, Jeff Tate, Neil Whaley. Another Republican, Angela Hill. In the House, Rep. Stephen Horne voted no.
The Process to Ratify
In order to ratify the flag design that was voted on by the public in the November 2020 general election, both the House and Senate had to vote in favor of the new design. The process starts in the House of Representatives with offered HB 1, which included a description of the new flag design. It reads:
“The vertical height is seventy-two (72) units and the 19 horizontal length is one hundred twenty (120) units (dimensions 20 3:5, but variable), with two (2) vertical bars at the hoist and 21 the fly, the outer bars being twenty-five (25) units wide in Old H. B. No. 1 *HR31/R849* ~ OFFICIAL ~ 21/HR31/R849 PAGE 2 (RF\JAB) 22 Glory Red (Pantone red 200) and the inner bars being five (5) 23 units wide in Old Gold (Pantone gold 7563). The vertical bars 24 flank a central panel sixty (60) units wide in Old Glory Blue 25 (Pantone blue 282), and in the center of the panel is the artwork 26 that is two-thirds (2/3) the height of the flag or forty-eight 27 (48) units. The artwork is comprised of the stylized white 28 magnolia blossom with a stamen in Old Gold that was adopted by the 29 commission, surrounded by an array of twenty (20) white five-point 30 stars in a circle, with ten (10) of the stars flanking the 31 magnolia at the hoist side and ten (10) of the stars flanking the 32 magnolia at the fly side. At the top of the circle is a 33 five-point segmented star in Old Gold, and at the bottom of and 34 joined into the circle is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” in all 35 capital letters and in Americana font.”
The bill also explained the meaning behind the design choice.
The Magnolia is the state flower and represents hospitality, hope and rebirth as the magnolia often blooms more than once a year. The circle of twenty starts represents that the state was the 20th in the United States of America. The single five-point gold star represents the indigenous Native American tribes of the land. The five points also represent those from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia/Oceana and Europe which are the five inhabited areas of the world in which Mississippians originate from.
The color blue echoes the blue of the American flag and represents vigilance, justice and perseverance. The red bars to the side represent the hardiness and valor of the citizens of the state and the gold bars and gold stamen of the magnolia represent the rich cultural history of Mississippi.
Subsequently following the vote in the House, an appropriations bill – HB 68 – was approved which gives $10,000 to the Department of Finance and Administration to begin purchasing the flag and distributing it to state buildings across Mississippi.
The bill was then sent to the Senate who took it up promptly on Wednesday morning when they returned for work. With very little delay the bill was passed in the Senate after being explained by Senator Brice Wiggins on the floor.
Now that the bill to ratify and the appropriation to DFA have been passed by both chambers, they head to Governor Tate Reeves. Once his signature is on the legislation, it will be official: Mississippi has a new state flag.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn told reporters on Tuesday that he expected the flag raising ceremony to take place sometime on Thursday.
How We Got Here
In June 2020, there began a conversation of moving to change the state flag amongst Legislators. In what seemed to be a quick sweep of movement, a bill was brought forward, HB 1796, to remove the current state flag and coordinate a commission that would design a new flag to be voted on by the people during the November 2020 general election.
That bill was presented by Representative Jason White in the House. The commission was to be made up of nine individuals, three appointed by the Governor, Speaker and Lt. Governor. The new design was also required to have on it “In God We Trust,” and be submitted for the ballot by September 14.
After a few days of deliberation, the bill was finally passed by a vote of 91 to 23 in the House and 37 to 14 in the Senate.
Flag Commission Brings Forward New Design
The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag consisted of Dr. Mary Graham, Robyn Tannehill, TJ Taylor, J. Mack Varner, Sherri Car Bevis, Betsey Hamilton, Chief Cyrus Ben, Frank Bordeaux and Chairman of the Commission Reuben Anderson.
The commission met on several occasions to narrow the design choice down to one out of the over 4,000 submissions they received from the public. The commissioner divided their time into rounds. Round 1 narrowed down submissions to 25 designs. Round 2 moved to the top 10 designs. Round 3 saw a vote on the top 5 designs. Once the top five were selected the commission chose the number one design.
The public was given the ability to comment and show support for one flag over another throughout the process thanks to the online capability set up by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
On September 2, the New Magnolia Flag, later named the “In God We Trust Flag,” was selected by the commission to appear on the ballot in an 8 to 1 vote. The flag was designed by Rocky Vaughan of Ackerman, with the magnolia contribution by Sue Anne Joe of Greenwood and Kara Giles, an artist contracted by the Commission.
On November 3, 2020 over two-thirds of Mississippians, or over 70% and 80 of the state’s 82 counties, voted to confirm the “In God We Trust Flag” design as the new state colors.
“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.”
This allowed for the design to be sent back to the Legislature for ratification. Once signed by the Governor the flag will be raised at the state Capitol and subsequently over all other state operated buildings.
-- Article credit to Sarah Ulmer of Y'all Politics. --