Mississippi Votes to Keep Controversial Flag

ByABC News
April 18, 2001, 5:40 AM

April 18 -- To some, it's a symbol of racism and hatred.

But to the majority of Mississippi voters, it's a piece of history, and one worth preserving in the state's controversial flag.

On Tuesday, voters in the state overwhelmingly decided to keep their flag as is with the stars and bars in the upper left corner making it the last state in the union to wave the rebel symbol over its Statehouse.

Just Cloth on a Stick?

Attorney Greg Stewart helped lead the effort to preserve the flag.

"It's just a piece of cloth that flies on a stick, and certainly that is a decision that even the most common citizen can have an opinion about and they're entitled to have that opinion," he said.

But others said they would continue to fight the flag.

"It's not over," vowed Deborah Denard of the NAACP chapter in Jackson, Miss. "We're not going away."

But Stewart said he doubted it would come up for a vote again.

"I don't think there'll be any support in Mississippi to bring this up again," Stewart said. "I can't see it, even among the people who originally pushed the proposed pattern. They had a good shot, they gave it a good college try. It's over."

Voters had two choices: keep the current flag, adopted in 1894, with theConfederate emblem of 13 white stars on a blue X, or adopt a newflag with 20 white stars on a blue square, to symbolize Mississippi'srole as the 20th state.

Economic Argument for Change

The Confederate symbol has sparked an emotional debate inside the state and out. Advocates argued it is a crucial part of the state's heritage that should continue to have a prominent space in the flag.

Earl Faggert, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said when he looks at the flag, "I see honor, duty, courage, sacrifice, loyalty and devotion."

Faggert, obviously, was pleased with the outcome.

"I knew the people of Mississippi felt strongly about their flag and their heritage," he said. "They've spoken very loudly and very clearly to all of us."