Pike County has a deep history in both the Civil War and in the Civil Rights movement, and the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi flag confirmed residents have mixed feelings.
“I personally think we should have kept the flag or at least let the people vote to keep it or not,” Rita Brister said. “I just hate that it has come down to this since we’ve had that flag for so many years.”
Brister, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the flag represented her heritage and her eight family members who served in the Confederate Army, including her great-grandfather.
“I think they believed in that flag and they carried that flag and I think they should be honored with it,” she said. “I still plan to keep the Confederate flag on my ancestor’s grave.”
She said she liked the flag and referred to the Confederate battle emblem on the flag as the “little bitty piece on the flag” that honored her veteran ancestors.
“I like it, and I understand that a lot of people didn’t like it, but I don’t think we should do away with it,” she said.
Bobby Talbert, who spent his youth taking part in sit-ins and marches during the Civil Rights movement, said the Legislature’s vote on Sunday to change the flag was historic — and overdue.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened,” he said. “The flag was hindering us so much we couldn’t turn right or left. Every morning and every time you pass by a building you see that flag, that is heartbreaking.”
Talbert said the move is a step closer to uniting the state rather than dividing it.
Voters will choose a new design for the state flag, which must contain the words “In God We Trust” but cannot contain the Confederate emblem, during the Nov. 3 general election.
“I’ll be there with bells on, and everyone I have been talking to said they are going to be there with bells on,” he said.
Talbert noted that those who like the soon-to-be-removed flag can still have it on their own property, so it will not be taken away from them.
“If someone wants one in their house, it is their business, but it is not flying out there on our public buildings anymore,” he said.
Talbert, who said he participated in the historic march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., also said he was proud to see the Republican support for the change, calling it a great stride in bipartisanship.
Joseph Abbott, commander of the Stockdale Rangers Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said lawmakers overstepped their bounds.
“It is the people’s flag to change; not the legislators, and the Republicans are going to pay a steep price come election time. They think we are going to forget, but we aren’t,” he said. “If it had been a vote of the people I would have no problem with it, but the fact that it was done with backroom deals and bribery, I am not for that. It is not.”
McComb Branch NAACP President Mamie Kettle said the state can finally move forward and grow.
“I believe that it is a great step toward the future,” she said. “It’s going to bring more money to the state as well as the different cities across the state of Mississippi, and the people will have more pride in our state.
“It will have us on the right step for unity in Pike County. That is what we are working for. We may be 20 or 30 years behind but it is one step closer to where we need to be.”
Civil Rights activist Hilda Casin said she was proud of the leadership in the state, noting that the move to change the flag will uplift the community and help grow unity between the younger generations.
“I thought about what the Bible said in Ecclesiastes — ‘There is a time for all things,’ and it seems we have reached that point,” she said.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law House Bill 1796, which was the bill that removed the flag, during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, making the change official.