Need 30 seconds of calm amid the tumult of life? If so, observe a copy of the Magnolia Flag that has been proposed as Mississippi’s new state flag.
Such a reflection is bound to settle your nerves. That banner presents a serene picture of Mississippi’s state flower, as approved by lawmakers in 1952. Our territory of 48,430 square miles also goes by the nickname of “The Magnolia State.”
A committee voted 8-1 several weeks ago to offer the Magnolia Flag to voters in the Nov. 3 election, the same that will decide the U.S. presidency.
Under terms of the law passed in June when the racially divisive 126-year-old Beauregard battle flag was taken down by the Legislature, the Magnolia Flag was chosen from a bevy of proposed flags – one memorialized the mosquito — to be the new state flag, if voters approve of it in November.
If they reject it, the committee appointed by state officials must come up with another proposed flag for a vote on Nov. 2, 2021.
The chosen flag will go atop all those vacant state flagpoles scattered from the State Capitol building in Jackson, to Parchman prison, to the Gulf Coast beaches and to courthouses from Tylertown to Tunica. The words “In God We Trust” will be emblazoned on the cloth.
In rewriting the state flag law, legislators voted to imprint that slogan on the standard in this Bible Belt stronghold. Those words could be eliminated only if the Legislature rewrites the law again.
There are 20 stars against a blue background on the proposed new flag, signifying Mississippi as the 20th state to enter the Union. A
brown, larger star in the center atop the banner honors the Choctaw Indians, and rightly so because they were here first. Its middle is adorned by the glorious magnolia blossom.
Many, but not all, Mississippians would approve of almost any other state flag than the one unceremoniously removed as soon as the legislative vote was recorded. A few old soreheads are scattered here and there — and maybe a local government somewhere — who continue to fly the old flag, but not officially.
For the sake of historical education, the wording “In God We Trust” mandated by the Legislature is also the official motto of the United States of America — which Mississippi remains a part of, whether some agree or not (unless we seceded again last night, which would not be surprising).
Those four words officially became the nation’s sobriquet in 1956 to replace “E pluribus unum,” which is Latin for “Out of Many, One.” It has been printed on all U.S. currency since Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower’s approved it that year.
The use of “In God We Trust” has survived numerous legal assaults alleging that the religious reference violates the Constitution’s establishment clause of the First Amendment. Polls of citizens for decades have shown that upwards of 90 percent of Americans support the phrase.
The late University of Mississippi historian David Sansing, in his book “The Other Mississippi: A State In Conflict With Itself,” published in 2018, noted that another Magnolia Flag was the state flag from March 30, 1861, at the start of the Civil War, until Feb. 6, 1894. Then the Beauregard began flying, although there was a period when it was, by legislative error, unofficially the state flag.
The last time Mississippians voted on the flag issue was on April 17, 2001, during the gubernatorial term of Ronnie Musgrove, when they overwhelmingly decided to keep the ancient “stars and bars” flag. This year’s Legislature, properly so, didn’t give them another chance to vote that way.
Mac Gordon is a part-time resident of McComb. He can be reached at macmarygordon @gmail.com.