A state commission has selected the Magnolia Flag to be the next flag of Mississippi. Voters will decide this November whether to approve it or restart the process.
The decision came down to just two flags Wednesday: The Magnolia Flag and the Great River Flag.
The final designs were selected out of about 3,000 proposals submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for consideration.
Reuben Anderson, the first African American to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, chaired the commission and gave a brief a speech after the members voted 8-1 to select the Magnolia Flag.
“I grew up in Mississippi in the ’40s and ’50s, and all of my life Mississippi has been at the bottom, 50th, in whatever category you can think of. Whether income, health care or education, we’ve always been on the bottom. On Nov. 3, I think that’ll start to change. We want to move to the top, but I can assure you we will move. And how in the world is it that Mississippi would be on the bottom with all of the tremendous assets and resources that we have?
“We have the greatest people, the most talented and gifted people, the greatest poets and authors and musicians. We are the birthplace of America’s music. We have the most fertile soil. Everything will grow in Mississippi. From cotton, to watermelons, to catfish — it’ll grow here. We have timber and oil and gas, the Mississippi River and 90 miles of beaches.
“There’s no reason for us to be on the bottom. We will be on the bottom all of my lifetime, but my children and grandchildren will see us ascend, and it’ll happen because of what you have done to bring this great object to the people of Mississippi to vote on.”
Before the commission voted, they discussed various aspects of the Magnolia Flag, including whether it should have 20 or 21 stars. The 20 white stars represents Mississippi being 20th state to join the United States. The 21st gold star represents the Native Americans who were originally here.
The exact hue of yellow for the vertical stripes and whether the font of “In God We Trust” should be serif or sans-serif was also discussed. Clay Moss, a flag expert who worked with the commission, explained that some features — such as the yellow stamen of the magnolia flower or the boldness of the font — needed to be adjusted for the design to be successfully displayed on a flag.
The commission briefly entertained delaying the historic vote. Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill suggested holding a poll of registered voters to decide between the final two flags at Wednesday’s meeting, but Katie Blount, the director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said the secretary of state told her the flag needed to be decided by Sept. 2 to be printed on absentee ballots.
Just before the commission’s vote was announced, TJ Taylor, a policy aide to Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, suggested calling whichever flag design the commissioners selected the “In God We Trust Flag.” The idea was unanimously adopted by the other commissioners.
Earlier this summer, lawmakers voted to remove Mississippi’s previous flag, which contained the Confederate battle flag. That flag was adopted in 1894, nearly three decades after the end of the Civil War.
Under the rules adopted by the Legislature, the next flag must not contain the Confederate battle flag and must use the words “In God We Trust.”
Asked about the selection Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Tate Reeves thanked the commission and said he likes the magnolia flower and the words, “In God We Trust.”
“I think they did a good job,” Reeves said. “A well done flag.”
Even if Mississippi voters approve the flag in November, the battle may not be over.
Lauren Smith of Tupelo attended Wednesday’s meeting and approached reporters after the historic vote. Smith said she is part of a group called Let Mississippi Vote.
While Smith praised the selection by the commission, she said Let Mississippi Vote intends to gather signatures for a referendum on the flag that will put four flags on a future ballot for voters to choose from — regardless of the outcome in November.
One of those four flags, Smith said, will be the 1894 flag containing the Confederate battle flag.